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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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Let me answer that in reverse. The whole fan name thing, where it came from is, I wrote the first book, The Gathering Storm, and I got several notes from Maria that said, "You know, a lot of your names don't feel right. They don't feel like Wheel of Time names." And it was one of the areas that, fans noticed it too when the book came out. I named people like I name people, and so for Towers of Midnight, I felt, "I need to radically change the way I name. I need to use Robert Jordan's methods." So while talking to Maria and Harriet, Harriet told me this wonderful story where...you think he named someone after...(to Harriet)...a washing machine, was it? You remember you said, like there's a little name on one of the washing machines...was it you?
The stove is a Jenn Air, and every time I looked at it, I would think of the Jenn Aiel. [laughter]
And at one point I was taking allergy medicine, and whoever considered Corianin's surname—Seldane?
And there's an Ogier St. in Charleston. And beyond that, Robert Jordan was naming a lot of characters in the books off of mythological figures, with some twists. And so I felt—I actually said, "I'm going to grab a phone book, and I'm just going to go looking for names and try and tweak those names to start naming in the Wheel of Time." And when I did that, I stopped and thought, "Wait a minute. I had a list of names; it's in the list of the names of the fans who were part of this one charity drive we did." So I just started grabbing their names; that's as random as the phone book for me, and that's where the naming [characters] after fans thing came from. It was me forcing myself to try and do something different in the way that I'd been naming.
Now, back to the original question, did I name anything after myself: Actually, there's a cameo by Robert Jordan in the books, of Robert Jordan. Do you guys know what it is? If you know, raise your hands. If you don't know...most of you do know? No, most of you don't know. There is a statue of Robert Jordan in the books. It is discovered among the ter'angreal that were originally in Rhuidean, right? Rhuidean? No, Ebou Dar; that's right, it's the Ebou Dar cache. See, that's why I looked at Maria, and I'm like, "Where did they come from?" And there's a man that has the contents of many stories contained, and that was described to look like Robert Jordan.
I gave myself a similar cameo to that, in that, one of the times when I was visiting Charleston, Wilson—who was Robert Jordan's cousin, and they were very dear friends, like siblings—was taking Robert Jordan's weapons collection, and figuring out what to do with, and he had so many weapons. [laughter] It was really awesome to go walking through his workshop, so to speak—where he'd work—and see all these weapons, and see all of the different versions of the ashandarei that he had, and you can just imagine him swinging them about and deciding how he was going to do this, and describing certain weapons. He had everything, and so he'd use it. And Wilson was doing this, and he said to me, "Brandon, go out there and pick one, anything you want. Go grab one." And so, I couldn't pass up an opportunity like that, stunned though I was, and I went out there and I found at the very back a katana with a scabbard that had a red-and-gold dragon on it, twisting around the scabbard. And I don't know if the idea for Rand's dragons came first, and then he bought the scabbard and the sword because it looked like that, or if that was part of the inspiration. I suspect it was the former, that he saw that and thought, "Wow, that's just like the..."
But either way, I picked that one, and then I wrote that sword into the books, which you will find if you look around; that sword is mentioned. So that's my cameo, is I put my sword in. It now hangs on my wall, inside a case—my wife had it, got a case and a little plaque that says "Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time," underneath. And it hangs on my wall with Robert Jordan's birthdate underneath it.
Will you confirm now that Rand's sword (received in The Gathering Storm, given to Tam in A Memory of Light) is Hawkwing's sword Justice?
"Yes, I can now confirm that. It's also my sword." (But in-world, it's Justice.)
(Possible follow-on question, if anyone is interested: Is there a backstory on it, e.g. the theory that Hawkwing took it from Guaire Amalasan? What about the idea that it came from the War of Power and was Lews Therin's own sword then?)
Yes. Many authors tend the write themselves into their books. I was just wondering if Robert Jordan had done that, and in particular, if he had written himself in as Rand's ter'angreal.
Had he written himself into the book? Robert Jordan did write himself in, but it's not—I think you're thinking of Rand's angreal. It's actually something else. It's the ter'angreal that they find in the Ebou Dar cache, which is a man—a jolly man statue that is full of stories. And that was Robert Jordan's cameo that he wrote himself in.
Hello Mr. Sanderson,
I've read a few of your books and have absolutely loved them. Please keep bringing joy to those of us that love your work. I have three questions to ask you:
1. Pepsi, Coke, or RC?
2. Have you ever snuck references or inside jokes into your books for specific people in your life to find?
3. What is your advice for those of us who are struggling to get through a first draft of our novels?
Thank you very much for doing this AMA. Have a wonderful rest of your day.
1. A nice cup of ice water. (Not much of a soda man, I'm afraid.)
2. Yes indeed! Mostly my editor and agent, who have little cameos here and there.
3. Remember that the product of your writing career is NOT the books themselves, but YOU. Your purpose in writing is to train yourself to be someone who can write incredible books, and you get there by finishing story after story. Don't get too bogged down in the project of the moment; keep moving forward. YOU are what you are creating, not the story.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!
I guess now is a good time to realize that spending a few years on the same story without finishing it is not a good way to become a good writer. Thank you very much.
It can be tough. You get really invested in that first story; I know how it feels. Often, what holds you back is that you know your skill isn't up to doing justice to the great story you've imagined, so you end up getting frustrated or dragging your feet.
Sometimes, the answer is to tell yourself, "I'll do this one after I've practiced some more." Give yourself permission to do something else, knowing that you're not abandoning your story--just delaying until you can do it right.