Search the most comprehensive database of interviews and book signings from Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan.
2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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Why have we not seen any Aiel Asha'man?
The Aiel have a different tradition, as I have mentioned in the books. When a young Aiel man learns that he is beginning to channel, or thinks that he is, that is taken as sign that he has been marked out to try to kill the Dark One, and he sets out for the Blight in an attempt to do so. And given that any Black Tower recruiting party that showed up in the Waste would very likely find itself in a fight to the death fairly soon after arrival, it isn't a spot that anyone would pick for recruiting. Now, it may be that some Aiel may finally join the Asha'man (I'm not saying they will!) but traditions are hard to change, especially when they have religious overtones and have lasted a few thousand years.
For Lucky Day, Asha'man have varying degrees of ability with the sword, just like anyone else. There has to be a certain level of talent for anyone to reach a particular level of skill, and also there is the question of how hard a particular person might try at learning the word. After all, he can channel, right? Sword? I don't need no stinking sword, gringo!
Thanking him, I decided to exit the bookstore. Due to the size of the bookstore, they would not let people back inside. So instead of waiting another hour for a doubtful few more questions, we decided that his answer was sufficient to know exactly what we wanted.
If you want my opinion, his look convinced me that Taim killed Asmodean. It was that startling.
That suggestion came about because I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to fit it in. In the end I decided to get three or four chapters of it into Towers of Midnight. So it is there. I haven’t yet decided whether the rest of that story will happen on screen in A Memory of Light or whether it will have to happen off screen. The outline is all there, but I’m still not sure what I’ll have time for and what will work with the pacing.
Posting something on my website is not something that I could just do offhandedly. If I were going to do it it would take a lot of talking to Harriet and Tor and getting permission. So that was really only a long-shot contingency plan. Will it happen? I don’t know. We’ll have to see what gets into A Memory of Light. I’m pleased with the parts I was able to fit into Towers of Midnight, which means there’s a good chance I’ll be able to fit the rest into A Memory of Light.
Taim may not be a standard Third Ager. Brandon wouldn't say any further because he has about five chapters revolving around the Black Tower to write for the beginning of the next book and he didn't want to spoil, so it was half a RAFO.
I just asked if Taim was a "standard" Third Ager. He pondered it for a minute or so before explaining that he had a few more chapters to write about what was happening at the Black Tower, so he didn't want to give too much away.
The area it covers? Yes, it is.
That’s a good question.
Amadine just reported that the answer to Terez's question of 'Was Taim's palace made from Shayol Ghul stone' was 'yes'.
Here is the message I sent Ama: Tell Brandon I said hi. Oh, and ask if Taim's palace is made of Shayol Ghul rock. Tell him Terez was very cranky with me that I didn't ask. LOL. James.
Ama's reply: The answer is yes!!!
Brandon looked a bit uncomfortable/hesitant answering this one. Not sure I should have warned him it was a Terez one, but he answered all the same. Theories, anyone? ALSO: Followup question asked Sun 22. Can someone ask how the stone got there? Was it dragged by teams to where it was safe to gateway?
This question was also asked by another person. I was going to ask about the stone that Taim used as his podium, a symbol of his office, beginning in Lord of Chaos, but I figured the description was too complicated for a question I had to pass on to be asked by someone else. I was thinking everything at the Black Tower was made with that same rock, so I said to ask about Taim's palace. Turns out only the walls are made out of that rock, and the original podium is still used as a podium in the palace. The palace is white marble, though it has black stone columns. Brandon probably knew the walls were made out of Shayol Ghul rock, and assumed I knew what I was talking about with the palace. (I didn't.) I didn't expect him to answer the question with a 'yes', or I might have put more effort into looking it up first. So we can probably assume that the podium and the walls are made of Shayol Ghul rock, and possibly also Moridin's Blightfortress and the Towers of Midnight in Imfaral. The significance is probably mostly symbolic, like the red-and-black floor tiles in Taim's palace.
Myrelle wasn't inside the grounds. They had been locked out.
This one should have been caught on my filters. Realised it as soon as it came out.
This isn't actually the answer; this is the problem. Why is there a silence when the Rebel embassy can be easily reached by gateway and vice versa? To quote Romanda, "They should have at least sent word. This silence is disturbing." That was the point behind the question—why is there such a big deal made when Nynaeve could reach them without fuss?
Uh, um, uh. I'm going to allow you to theorize on this one.
A RAFO by any other name is still a RAFO, although this pretty much means it IS weird...
So how long is the series going to be? RJ's answers from 95–06
Friend of mine posted this on Dragonmount and I got a kick out of it, a timeline of RJ's estimates on just how many books the series was going to be:
He still isn't sure how long WoT will go on for, saying probably seven books but adding that when The Eye of the World first came out he saw the series as four books.
"At present I am indeed hoping to complete the cycle in either seven or eight books. I am 90% confident that I can do it in seven, 95% confident that I can by eight. The thing is, as a famous manager of an American baseball team once said: 'It ain't over till it's over.'"
"It will last several more books, until I reach the last scene, which has been in my head since the very beginning."
"I do hope there will not be ten books all told. I'm planning for eight, at present, and hope very strongly that I can wrap it all up in that length."
He said he writes as the ideas come and he has no clue as to how long the series will be!
"I knew from the start that I was writing something that would be multiple books. I just never knew how many, exactly."
Not only did he decline to set the number of future WoT books, but he denied ever setting a number and says he never planned it to be only a trilogy. But he seemed to indicate he was planning 9-10 books total. When faced with the prospect of about twelve books, his wife threatened to divorce him and his editor began to make jokes about the Irish Mafia.
"Several. Some. A few. I'm not even speculating now on how many books I hope it will take, because every time I do mention a number I hope I can finish it in, it turns out to take longer. It will be at least eight, because I've signed the contracts for books seven and eight."
"I've stopped saying how many more books there will be."
"At one time, I did hope for eight; now I don't think so. I certainly hope (Please, God!) it doesn't go to ten books, but I have stopped saying anything except that I will write until I reach the last scene of the last book, which scene has been in my head from the beginning."
"There will be a few more books, some, not a lot, hopefully fewer than seven more."
"It will be at least ten books, yes. There will be some more books, not too many, and please God, not so many as I've already written. I am, in truth, writing as fast as I can. I want to maintain the pace of the story until I reach the final scene, which has been in my head since before I started writing The Eye of the World."
1997"There will be at least three more books. I'm not saying that there will be ONLY three. I'm saying that I can't finish in fewer than three."
"I believe—believe!—there will be three more books. I am trying to finish up as soon as possible, but I cannot see how to do it in fewer than three books. That isn't a guarantee, mind! In the beginning, I thought that there would be three or perhaps four books total, but it might go to five, or even six, though I really didn't believe it would take that long. It wasn't a matter of the story growing or expanding, but rather that I miscalculated—brother, did I!—how long it would take to get from the beginning to the end. I've known the last scene of the last book literally from the beginning. That was the first scene that occurred to me. Had I written it out 10 years ago, and then did so again today, the wording might be different, but not what happens. It has just taken me longer to get there than I thought."
"When I finished A Crown of Swords, I said it would take me at least three books more to finish. Now that I have completed The Path of Daggers, it looks like it will take me at least three more books to finish. Believe me, guys, I'm trying as hard as I can to get there as fast as I can."
"I don't have a set amount of books planned. I believe it will take at least three more books to reach the ending that I have known for more than 15 years."
"Remember, after A Crown of Swords I said at least three more books....the same thing I say now."
The usual "at least three more books" was mentioned several times in an increasingly loud voice.
"I am only asked that question by about 300 people a day. The answer is that there will be at least three more books. At least. As I said earlier, I know everything that I want to happen and I have known the last scene of the last book for fifteen years. I also know that I cannot get everything that I want to happen into less than three more books. So that's where we stand at the moment."
Firstly, RJ said three more books "at least" and that he'd try to do it in three if he could, but he couldn't promise it would be only three. And he said he thought it would take "at least five years".
"Sigh! At least three more. I know I've said that before, but it's still the case."
"It still sits at three more books to finish, but I've always said from the time I began using the three books that it would be AT LEAST three books—that I'd try to finish in at least three books, but I couldn't promise. I know that I couldn't possibly finish in fewer than three. If I can finish in three, I will. But that's what I'm hoping for, what I'm trying for. NOT a promise."
"There is no set number. It takes as much space as it takes."
The next book will be out very soon after he's finished writing it. He don't know how many more books there'll be. At least three. If he can finish it in three, he will.
There will be no more than five, but also no less than another three books to be expected to appear in The Wheel of Time series.
"There will be at least three more books. The next book will be in bookstores very shortly after I finish writing it, and Michael Jordan is my kid brother whom I taught to play basketball."
"After Crossroads of Twilight, there will be two more books, knock wood, God willing and the creek don't rise. I never intended The Wheel of Time to be this long. The story is progressing the way I planned, but from the beginning I believed I could tell it in many fewer words, many fewer volumes."
"I think twelve."—Harriet
When asked "how many more books?", which of course met great laughter, he responded that he had started the process intending to have only five or six. Now on book 10, he remarked that he would complete the series in two more books if at all possible. If not, then three.
Jordan showed up around 7, and gave a little speech. He said there will be at least two books, and that he will not write a word more than he has to."How many more books will there be? There will be at least two more books. I apologize for that. I cannot finish it in fewer books. I will try to finish it in two more. I have known the last scene of the last book since 1984. I know where I'm going. The problem is...[my tape is once again inaudible and this was one of the few parts of his speech I could not hear, sorry gang]. That's about it."
"I really hope—knock wood, spit over your shoulder, and sacrifice to the gods—that I can finish up in twelve books total. We shall see."
"No, at least two more books, I'm afraid....I've had some people say they'd like five or ten, but I generally throw something at them."
"I hope—please God, are you listening?—that there will be only two more books in the main sequence."
"I very much hope to finish in two more main sequence books. It's not an absolute promise, but I'm very much hoping for it and I think I can do it."
"I sincerely hope it will be possible to tie everything up in two books."
There is only one book left in the series but it will be a doozy. He will fight to prevent it from being "George R.R. Martined," or split for publication.
"I am committed it is going to be 12 books, even if it is fifteen hundred pages long and it requires you to bring a luggage cart to get it out of the store. Bring your knapsack, you may need it, because no matter what the case that is going to be it."
"One more—the twelfth book. That will be so even if that book has to be 2000 pages in hardcover, and require a luggage cart and shoulder strap to get it out of the store."
"I have said it before and will say it again. There will be one more book. Even if it has to be a 1500 page book. It will be the last book even if you have to use a luggage cart to move it."
"For Segovia, my intention is finish with twelve books, and that may mean that the last book will be VERY long, but I really can't say how long it will take me to write. My publisher is always trying to get me to commit to a time frame. I just do a little sand dance until he goes away. I carry a small bottle of sand with me in New York for exactly that purpose."
Book Twelve will end the main sequence if he has to personally go to New York and beat the publishers at Tor, even if it runs two thousand pages and they have to invent a new way to bind the books (shudder). There will be two more prequels a la New Spring, and there might—very big MIGHT—be another trilogy in the same universe.
First, "the next book will be out very shortly after I'm done writing it." Next, "the next book will be the last book, even if it's 2000 pages, and you need a luggage cart to carry it out of the bookstore."
"Can we all say it together? One more book. I don't care if it has to be 2000 pages and you have to wheel it out the door. One more book."
"After Knife of Dreams, there's going to be one more main-sequence Wheel of Time novel, working title A Memory of Light. It may be a 2,000-page hardcover that you'll need a luggage cart and a back brace to get out of the store. (I think I could get Tor to issue them with a shoulder strap embossed with the Tor logo, since I've already forced them to expand the edges of paperback technology to nearly a thousand pages!) Well, it probably won't be that long, but if I'm going to make it a coherent novel it's all got to be in one volume."
Ah, and what a marvelous 2,000 page book it would have been. I was really shooting for this. Turns out, however, that I don't have the influence that RJ did, and couldn't persuade the publisher that printing a 2,000+ page book was viable. You'll have to be satisfied with three 800 pagers instead.
I do kind of hope we'll be able to do a cut of the volume in ebook where I weave the three books back into one, which would fix some of the timeline confusion in Towers of Midnight, which was the big casualty of the split.
(I knew that, in all likelihood, a split would be mandated, and so I prepared for it by deciding on the three book split instead of a two book split, as I feel it fit the narrative flow better. However, I was working on Perrin when the first split happened, and didn't realize until afterward that by jumping back to the beginning of his story after finishing The Gathering Storm, I was going to create the issues it did with Tam.)
So you're planning on doing a Phantom Edit of your own work? I, for one, would be really interested to read something like this, but I think that what you lost in chronological clarity in the split, you gained in pacing and narrative clarity.
That said, you mentioned in a previous interview that The Gathering Storm's intensity also came from an awareness that your first effort in the Wheel of Time really needed to be a home run. Would your decisions regarding the narrative structure have changed if you didn't feel that pressure?
I wouldn't consider it a phantom edit, as I wouldn't be removing sections. I'd be moving them around, adding in a few deleted scenes. More like an extended edition mixed with pacing tweak.
I don't know how my decisions might have changed if I hadn't felt that pressure. I might have chosen to do Rand/Perrin in the first book and Egwene/Mat in the second book. Perrin/Mat have great stories in TofM—but they're not as focused as the ones for Rand/Egwene. I don't know. The timeline might have been even worse.
This is something I'd have to play with, if I were actually to attempt it, to even see if the narrative flow would work that direction now that I've made writing decisions with three books—instead of one—being the reality.
Now that I've finished reading A Memory of Light, I have to say, I think this would be an insane task. Mostly, The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight would be the things caught up in reorganizing, since A Memory of Light's timeline is internally consistent enough to justify things. It would also let you sprinkle the Black Tower POVs a bit more nicely throughout the trilogy, since the frontloading of that plot at the beginning of A Memory of Light is one of the few structural weaknesses I thought I saw.
In any case, congratulations! You've really done it! Those annotations will be fascinating, assuming you get permission to take it on.
You're right on the Black Tower structural weakness. I actually plotted that sequence to go all in Towers of Midnight, but ran up against deadlines and only did a few chapters of it. It would work far better moved earlier.
Thanks for reading. I'll see what I can do about annotations.
That makes a lot of sense. One gets the feeling that a lot of your writing was done with several different forces tugging you one way or another; collaboration can be tough, especially for artists who are used to working in the silence of their mind, and I can't imagine adding a massive fandom to that.
Seriously: congrats. Tai'shar...Utah? :)
Tai'shar Nebraska, actually. But I like Utah well enough. :)
I'm Stefan from American Fork, locally, and I had a really good question, but I looked it up on the internet before I came, and it was answered both on Dragonmount and Theoryland. [laughter] And so I had to come up with something else.
So, we have seen the hierarchies explained in a lot of the different orders in Randland, like—you know, the Wise Ones, it's kind of force of will, right? Like, Aes Sedai, they kinda defer based on the strength of Power, that kind of thing. Have we seen that in the Black Tower, and is that what's going on with how the men treat Androl?
The Black Tower is still unformed. They've begun...you've gotta remember—like you mentioned the Wise Ones; you mentioned the White Tower—these are institutions that have been going for a long, long time, and they've had plenty of time to build their hierarchies organically. The Black Tower has not had that chance yet, and I think that if you were to watch the Black Tower for the next thousand years, assuming it survives—assuming it survives even this book [laughter]—you would see them come up with their own method of stratification, and it might be similar to one of the others; it might be different, and you'll just have to read and figure out on your own what you think would happen.
Read And Figure Out.
Yes, Read And Figure Out. [laughter] Because you're trying to compare, in a lot of ways, apples and oranges, because something that's had a thousand years to grow is going to be—you know, it's going to have some of that rigidity that something brand-new doesn't have.
Okay, thank you.
So far as I know, yes. And for the same purpose.
Do other groups start using the Rod too?
Do you think the Aes Sedai are likely to let others manhandle one of their ter'angreal?
Did men start to use the Oath Rod too, or did it continue to be only women?
No men. Neither group would like that. The Asha'man are NOT male Aes Sedai. RJ was clear about this in the notes.
Will the White and Black Towers reunite to form one Aes Sedai again?
RJ was clear to me that the Asha'man were not Aes Sedai, and were not going to become them.
That said, a united male/female Aes Sedai will come again someday.
We went out to the signing, and it was overwhelmingly crowded without being oppressive. The questions and answers were almost identical to those asked at other signings, as my fellow keepers have already reported on. No outriggers, WoT encyclopedia next year, and stories about the notes and the writing process.
The most interesting piece was on Androl, who was almost wholly Sanderson's creation. Jordan had many view points at the Tower, and Sanderson collapsed it into one, giving the soldier a power that Sanderson wished had been in WoT since his youth. Apparently, Jordan had a book of leather working he had intended to use somehow, and Sanderson gave that skill to his character in homage.
Androl—is he yours?
He is mine. From the beginning, I asked Team Jordan if there was an Asha'man that had a blank slate that I could take over, because I wanted to have a viewpoint in the Black Tower, and I wanted to do some of these things with gateways.
When you were working on A Memory of Light, I know Mr. Jordan had the fates of most, if not all of the characters written down. Were there any characters where you got to decide the fate of, either in A Memory of Light or the previous two books?
Yes, there were some. For example, Pevara's fate isn't mentioned in the notes, which is why I felt all right co-opting her for the Black Tower storyline, which was mostly mine. Siuan's fate wasn't mentioned in the notes, save for the rescue of Egwene from the White Tower. Harriet made the decision on how her story was to play out.
Robert Jordan didn't leave me a ton of direction regarding the Black Tower. There were a few gems that we knew, but in a lot of places I was left to follow my instincts regarding the plotting points he had built across the last few books. He did leave a lot of clear instructions regarding Taim, fortunately, including his backstory and instructions for a scene where Taim was named as one of the Forsaken.
Androl and Pevara
In working on the Black Tower plot, one thing I realized early on was that I wanted a new viewpoint character to be involved. One reason was that we didn't have anyone to really show the lives of the everyday members of the Black Tower. It felt like a hole in the viewpoint mosaic for the series. In addition, each Wheel of Time book—almost without exception—has either introduced a new viewpoint character or added a great deal of depth to a character who had only seen minimal use before. As we were drawing near to the end of the series, I didn't want to expand this very far. However, I did want to add at least one character across the three books I was doing.
I went to Team Jordan with the suggestion that I could fulfill both of these purposes by using one of the rank-and-file members of the Black Tower, preferably someone who wasn't a full Asha'man and was something of a blank slate. They suggested Androl. The notes were silent regarding him, and while he had been around, he so far hadn't had the spotlight on him. He seemed the perfect character to dig into.
A few more things got spun into this sequence. One was my desire to expand the usage of gateways in the series. For years, as an aspiring writer, I imagined how I would use gateways if writing a book that included them. I went so far as to include in the Stormlight Archive a magic system built around a similar teleportation mechanic. Being able to work on the Wheel of Time was a thrill for many reasons, but one big one was that it let me play with one of my favorite magic systems and nudge it in a few new directions. I've said that I didn't want to make a large number of new weaves, but instead find ways to use established weaves in new ways. I also liked the idea of expanding on the system for people who have a specific talent in certain areas of the One Power.
Androl became my gateway expert. Another vital key in building him came from Harriet, who mailed me a long article about a leatherworker she found in Mr. Jordan's notes. She said, "He was planning to use this somewhere, but we don't know where."
One final piece for his storyline came during my rereads of the series, where I felt that at times the fandom had been too down on the Red Ajah. True, they had some serious problems with their leadership in the books, but their purpose was noble. I feel that many readers wanted to treat them as the Wheel of Time equivalent of Slytherin—the house of no-goods, with every member a various form of nasty. Robert Jordan himself worked to counteract this, adding a great deal of depth to the Ajah by introducing Pevara. She had long been one of my favorite side characters, and I wanted her to have a strong plot in the last books. Building a relationship between her and Androl felt very natural to me, as it not only allowed me to explore the bonding process, but also let me work a small romance into the last three books—another thing that was present in most Wheel of Time books. The ways I pushed the Androl/Pevara bond was also something of an exploration and experiment. Though this was suggested by the things Robert Jordan wrote, I did have some freedom in how to adapt it. I felt that paralleling the wolf bond made sense, with (of course) its own distinctions.
Finding a place to put the Pevara/Androl sequence into the books, however, proved difficult. Towers of Midnight was the book where we suffered the biggest time crunch. That was the novel where I'd plotted to put most of the Black Tower sequence, but in the end it didn't fit—partially because we just didn't have time for me to write it. So, while I did finish some chapters to put there, the soul of the sequence got pushed off to A Memory of Light, if I managed to find time for it.
I did find time—in part because of cutting the Perrin sequence. Losing those 17,000 words left an imbalance to the pacing of the final book. It needed a plot sequence with more specific tension to balance out the more sweeping sequences early in the book where characters plan, plot, and argue. I was able to expand Androl/Pevara to fit this hole, and to show a lot of things I really wanted to show in the books.
Rand and Logain
I made a few interesting decisions with the Black Tower sequence. The first was to not involve Rand. Though it would have been a nice narrative balance to have Rand come save the Asha'man in contrast to them saving him in book six, I felt that Rand was riding to the rescue too often. The Black Tower was about to lose him permanently, and if its members could not face their problems on their own, then thematically they'd be left at the end of the series hampered and undermined. Beyond this, I believed that Rand's personality (as shown in earlier books) would push him to avoid being pulled into a potential trap at the Black Tower. His argument that he couldn't risk a confrontation is a good one. Androl and company had to face their problems on their own—save for the help of an Aes Sedai, another thing I felt to be thematically important.
Perhaps the most controversial decision (among Team Jordan) that I made with this sequence was to push Logain toward being a darker figure. Following his extended torture, I felt that Logain would emerge as a different person—though he'd always been somewhat dark. Some members of Team Jordan felt he was past that, and I disagreed. Logan was a false Dragon, gentled then healed, head of a group of men going insane who owed loyalty to Rand—but who rarely interacted with him. There is so much going on with this guy that he could have carried an entire series on his own.
I wanted him to wrestle with all of this. Logain's life ever since his capture way back when seemed to have been one of being shoved this way and then that. He needed to decide for himself what kind of Black Tower he was going to rule, if he was going to earn the honor of men as was promised. (And yes, this had not yet happened at the end of the series.) Logain, so far as I know, never once let go of power in the series—it was always ripped from his fingers. In this case, he was allowed to choose.