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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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(from the comments)
One other way to think of it is thus: The Wheel will keep on turning, and the Age that we live in (or like unto it) will someday arrive. Legends from what is happening in these books will have survived, and become the Arthur legends during our day. Or, in other cases, stories of other characters have survived in other mythologies. (Look up the Slavic god Perun sometime.)
Perrin is not a god, nor is Gawyn the knight of that story I linked. But perhaps someone who lived long ago, in another Age, gave birth to rumors about a young nobleman who made a mistake, and bore the weight of that sin for the rest of his days. And that gave birth to stories, which in turn inspired a poet to write a tale.
RJ gave a little height information that slightly contradicts some previous info supposedly gleaned from a signings encounter. Rand is, of course, about 6'6". Moiraine, however, is actually as tall as 5'3", and Egwene and Nynaeve are both about 5'5". Oh, and he said Moiraine "was" 5'3", if anyone wants to read anything into that. RJ also said that if anyone asked him how much anybody weighed, he'd throw up his hands in exasperation. I definitely got the impression that he cares nothing for the detailed heights and such, but instead goes completely from the mental pictures he's got in his head.
I realized the wording wasn't very clear on @e_wot. Here's the full quote:
In the way of dreams she floated above a long, straight road across a grassy plain, looking down upon a man riding a black stallion. Gawyn. Then she was standing in the road in front of him, and he reined in. Not because he saw her, this time, but the road that had been straight now forked right where she stood, running over tall hills so no one could see what lay beyond. She knew, though. Down one fork was his violent death, down the other, a long life and a death in bed. On one path, he would marry her, on the other, not. She knew what lay ahead, but not which way led to which. Suddenly he did see her, or seemed to, and smiled, and turned his horse along one of the forks... And she was in another dream.
Anyway, my first question was: In book 10 Elayne mentioned that Galad fancied Nynaeve or had for a time. Did I miss something?
(I put his answer on tape, will type out his words, it will be as close to it as I can get it. Although my tape recorder doesn't pick out everything and I am not going to listen to something 10 times to find his exact exact words. But it is really close.)
Oh, yes, just to settle an argument that seems to be ongoing, Egwene saw a bat, guys. After Falme, she could recognize the long sweeping wingstrokes of a raken or to'raken, and she knows a bat when she sees one. Bats really do flutter, to confirm those who have pointed this out.
Just one question, though I'm expecting a RAFO: Will the White Tower, the physical structure itself, be destroyed at the end of The Gathering Storm or any other point in A Memory of Light?
Sorry, but...well, RAFO. I'm under contract not to give things like this away.
We do know that Egwene has foreseen a strike by the Seanchan on the White Tower. We don't know how this will happen, though, or even if she's interpreting things correctly.
Uh...well...I'll have to check that. MAFO. Good question.
From Winter’s Heart, chapter 12, Rand speaking to Elayne, Aviendha, and Min: “Anyway, Alanna Mosvani got there ahead of you, and she didn’t bother asking . . . I’ve been bonded to her for months now.”
I asked around about this because I believed that Mato had misheard the name, and that the question was actually about whether Egwene knew about the bonding. (Many people pronounce it egg-WEEN instead of the proper egg-WAIN, so it's easy for those people to hear 'Elayne' when 'Egwene' is pronounced correctly.) The question was asked by Roga, a Stormleader, and he clarified:
If this question came from the Dallas signing, then it was from me. I asked about Egwene.
The reason behind the question was, I wanted to know: if Alanna's name had been on Verin's list in The Gathering Storm, would Egwene have passed over it? However, Brandon pointed out that Verin knew about the bond, so unless she had some reason to keep quiet, I'd think she should've made some kind of special warning note if Alanna had been in her list.
Egwene did not know.
I heard you answer a question last night, which sounded interesting. Someone asked about Padan Fain and Elaida.
A lot of people don’t remember that they met.
So, his influence, how long for example...wasn’t Egwene exposed to Padan Fain? Are there still effects that Egwene has on people because of him?
Remember the idea that people have, generally, a choice. There are ways to turn people to the Shadow against their will, but when that happens the person is no longer the person. What is happening with Padan Fain is, naturally tendencies can be exacerbated or they can be fought off...
...so Elaida’s paranoia fed that? With someone like Egwene she might have fought it off, so it’s not going to be...
...right. exactly, or someone like Rand who continues to fight it off. He has become very paranoid. And the wound in his side, certainly someone could make the connection that that might have an influence. I won’t say for certain but...
...so, the suggestion is not only does he have the taint, which is negatively influencing him, or influencing him in such ways that might bring on paranoia, there is this accentuation of it because of Fain...
...this corruption...I mean that wound and the dagger...
...that is another source...
...Mat managed to fight it off pretty much completely, well not completely, but we don’t see Mat running around paranoid anymore...Elaida gave it something to feed upon and it was very very small and subtle with Elaida but certainly that was an influence.
That was our First MAFO (Maria And Find Out).
He also said that Egwene is a powerful Dreamer and it seems unlikely that she didn't squeeze her for the information.
This one is basic enough that I feel pretty confident that Egwene would have certainly asked Moghedien about Tel'aran'rhiod. Egwene threatened to execute Moghedien if she lied; I would think that with the knowledge that Egwene gained from the Aiel Wise Ones she might use that as the occasional test, and see where it went. I think that Egwene asked Moghedien about pretty much anything that popped in her head.
Maria claims the right to amend this later.
(not verbatim) Egwene thought she was doing the right thing. She was acting as the Amyrlin and trying to make sure that he would be safe and out of the way of danger. She was not going to tie him up and leave him, she would have brought him somewhere safe away from the danger of the fight and left him there until it was over.
Who is stronger in Tel'aran'rhiod?
(not verbatim) They are both very strong, but in different ways. Perrin is very strong instinctively. Like the wolves, he makes decisions based on instinct while in Tel'aran'rhiod. Egwene plans out her moves rather than going by feeling as Perrin does. If the two were matched against each other the outcome would entirely be based on what type of encounter it was.
Most of Robert Jordan's titles had twists. There are some that were very straightforward—The Dragon Reborn; The Great Hunt. There are others that are simply things like Knife of Dreams, which comes from a line in a quote at the beginning of the book. The titles usually refer to something specific as well as something metaphorical. Towers of Midnight is the title I chose. There of course are the Towers of Midnight in Seanchan, and if you knew what those were for, and why they were there, it would illuminate the question a little bit more. But the title also refers to the towers that Egwene saw.
My working title for this book was The Three Towers, as a pun on the title of the second book of the Lord of the Rings. I was writing the second book of a trilogy of sorts here, and was dealing with the Tower of Ghenjei, the White Tower, and the Black Tower. There was going to be a lot more Black Tower stuff in this book which has been moved to the next book, but when I was working on it, we had a lot of focus on those three towers. So the name just struck me. It felt like the right thing to do.
Verin makes many statements throughout the books that are suspect now that we know she was not bound by the Oaths. In regards to the ter'angreal dream ring, Verin tells Egwene, "I tried it myself, once, some years ago. Anaiya's Healing did not work as well as it should have. Remember that."
During the time Verin gave Egwene the ring she mentioned going to Anaiya to be healed. She didn't go to a Yellow for Healing—does Verin hold something over Anaiya? Were they pillow friends? Or was this simply a case of asking a friend to do a minor healing because she knew she would keep it quiet?
He said that the scene with the Borderlander farmers in The Gathering Storm prologue and the one with the Borderlander Watch Tower in the Towers of Midnight prologue were written by RJ and that they were some of the last complete scenes RJ wrote (he mentioned this in earlier interviews).
He refused to say who wrote "The Last That Could Be Done" from The Gathering Storm.
He wrote the scenes of Egwene's dinners with Elaida in The Gathering Storm. RJ's notes suggested just one dinner scene but BS decided that it would work better if it was split in two.
Which one are they asking about?
This is my question.
Because it was a Min vision, about holding her life...
No, no...I know the difference. I’m thinking mostly of the fork in the road that Gawyn comes to in Egwene’s dream, and down one road they marry, and down the other they don’t...
Okay, yes. That has been fulfilled. That fork in the road was the same decision that Min saw. Those were parallel [prophecies]. And that prophecy did get fulfilled...and the meaning of that is...there is no hidden meaning, no 'Surprise, that wasn’t really it!' You saw it: if Gawyn had not returned when he did, Egwene would have died.
Brandon didn't let me finish telling him the dream, so I asked him about it again later. The dream actually refers to Gawyn's death rather than Egwene's, and was not fulfilled until A Memory of Light when they married (which set Gawyn down the chosen path).
(pause) I'm a little bit out on a limb on this one, but I don't believe he was. We have seen places where Rand manifests in Tel'aran'rhiod when he's in the real world, and this is something that happens with Rand that we haven't seen with other people...
Are you talking about like when...
Well, there's the Perrin sequence, for one...
Right, and when Ishamael visits him in The Great Hunt...
So, I believe Rand has got something a little unique going on there...
Oh, okay. That's interesting.
...but, I'm a little on a limb on that one.
Will we see Rand in the next book? YES. The book will not be a 100% flash-back like Book 10. There will be a little bit of catch-up for Perrin, but Egwene and Rand both have large parts too.
Is Mat in Towers of Midnight?
Yes. Lots of Mat. Promise.
What happened to Elayne? It seemed she fell off the earth in the last book.
It was tough to decide that Elayne would not appear in The Gathering Storm. I knew we didn't have room for everyone. Thing is, Elayne was way ahead of everyone else in her plotline. (Meaning what she needed to get done.) And so, with great regret, I moved her to Towers of Midnight. She will appear, as will her wonderful Warder.
Will we see Galad in Towers of Midnight?
so far, I'm on record as saying this: Almost everyone who did not appear in The Gathering Storm appears in Towers of Midnight. No promises on anyone other than Main Characters, like Mat/Elayne. But expect to see a lot of people return who didn't appear in The Gathering Storm. Also, Galad happens to be one of my personal favorite characters.
Do we get anything about Shocklances?
I'm pretty late to this party, so if I don't get an answer to my question..no worries...But any chance of Egwene ever putting Cadsuane in her place?
Re: Shocklances (sp? I should really know that one) and Egwene/Cadsuane. Double RAFO. Pow!
It was pretty close. She did a good job.
That is interesting, because I'm still speculating that there may be other Black Ajah working around that haven't been discovered, and actually I have a whole load of questions I'd love to ask, but I just know they're all gonna be…you know, "Read and Find Out" answers. It always amazes me that Egwene spent so much time under Halima's thumb, in a way, that I can't believe that the only weaves that she laid on her were producing migraines. It makes you wonder if there isn't some hidden Compulsion weave going on there, that we'll find out later that maybe some of the Black Ajah in the White Tower could take advantage of. You know, there are so many things like that that I just know…
Yeah, I don't wanna go there.
I don't think that there's any Black Ajah left in the White Tower currently.
I wouldn't wanna bet my life on that. I don't think there are many.
Other than Mesaana who's hiding somewhere because she can defeat the Oath Rod, or so thinks Egwene herself in the end of The Gathering Storm.
Well, you still have the Black Ajah that escaped, too.
Yeah, there was a lot of those that got out.
And we have Maria and Alan just sitting there going, "Yep, yep; you do." [laughter]
No, I was just thinking that she was minimizing headaches. What a horrible thing for migraine-sufferers.
Oh, listen…I get migraines. I have complete and total sympathy for anybody that gets migraines, but it seems to me like that probably wasn't the most…probably wasn't the only thing that she was doing to poor Egwene.
Well, the consensus that we…that was in the WoTFAQ when I was editing that article this summer was that Halima doing something to suppress Egwene's Dreaming talent so that she was not getting messages about the future any more, from whatever causes this to happen, and so the headache is the side-effect of that. I don't know if this is true or not; this is just the fan speculation from the WoTFAQ, but it is very telling that as soon as she gets away from Halima and is in the White Tower, her Dreaming ability comes back, because she had been having nightmares that she couldn't remember before about being chased by something, or something like that, and then when she gets into the White Tower, she stops having those nightmares, and she starts having the prophetic dreams again.
And she stops having headaches as well.
Yeah, and the headaches go away. And she does not make the connection in Knife of Dreams when she first sees this happen. I don't remember if she makes the connection in The Gathering Storm when she finds out about Halima's infiltration of the Salidar Aes Sedai. I have to go back and reread The Gathering Storm in the next couple of weeks, because I'm a little fuzzy on the details there.
Mm-hmm. Well, it certainly seems plausible. [laughter]
I'm not surprised that you guys have got this down to an art.
You guys give the perfect Aes Sedai answers.
I love it when I ask Maria and Alan things that relate to FAQ, and they'll just kind of smile and nod at me and go, 'That's a good guess!'
I was going to say another Aes Sedai answer, but then...I wonder if we’re going to get the Asha’man known for convoluted answers, but then they don’t have the oath rod to get around. They can say whatever they want to at all times.
They'll just blow you up and have done with it.
Yeah. They are refreshingly direct about their methods.
I go into books trying to present characters who are real. That said, some things in the real world that have influenced me are these questions of, what are you willing to sacrifice in the way of freedom in order to have security? I think that's a big theme recently in the Wheel of Time that Robert Jordan was dealing with, and that The Gathering Storm deals with a lot.
I was most fascinated with Egwene's progress as a leader through the entire series. And the things I was allowed to do because of what Jordan had done in Knife of Dreams and the set up in previous books, and then what was in the notes, was really exciting to me because she was able to come to encapsulate what a leader really is, I think. There are some great scenes in Gathering Storm that I got to be part of, where, you know, we've had Aes Sedai acting kind of as bullies, some of them. And we've had various people through various factions acting as bullies. And there has been this sense in the Wheel of Time that people believe that might makes right. And yet it doesn't, and the books imply that it doesn't. And Egwene is the first chance we've really got to see of someone with no might making an even better right.
Okay! Alright! So Wetlander and people.
Yes...Are the impressive displays of power that Rand makes in Towers of Midnight (i.e., stopping the Trolloc army and having no concern over being able to leave the White Tower) a result of his integrated knowledge or his ta'veren nature?
Umm...Both, though, one thing you have to keep in mind, is...Rand, as a result of power level...Robert Jordan was specifically not using him very often because his power had grown so powerful even by the end of Knife of Dreams. I mean, you look at Knife of Dreams—if you go reread the fight in Knife of Dreams he is laying waste to nearly as many Trollocs as he has when he does the battle at the temple—which is not actually called that in the books—that's the one with the Trollocs and things [referencing Rand's big single-handed fight in Towers of Midnight]. And so...yes, some of these things have changed, but he's really powerful now.
Now, the thing about in the White Tower is something different. [Brandon smiles]
In Lord of Chaos, Nynaeve and Elayne searched for something that would tie the Salidar Aes Sedai to Rand via Need in Tel'aran'rhiod.
Need led them to three things. First it led them to the White Tower, (where Elayne glimpsed Egwene briefly), then Need shifted Nynaeve and Elayne to a locked storeroom within the White Tower (they thought that was useless). After that, Need led them to the Bowl of the Winds. My questions are regarding the first two things Need brought them to.
On the first thing, was Need bringing them to Egwene?
I believe it was Egwene.
On the second thing, what was the item Need brought them to in that storeroom?
Was that something besides the Horn of Valere?
It could be.
[I felt that this question was grasping at straws here a bit from the impression I got from him, i.e. it's not that important regarding what the item is, but that it will come into play. And it's not the Horn of Valere in this case. I could be wrong, that's just the vibe I got.]
In The Gathering Storm, Egwene was mostly RJ, Rand mostly Brandon. In Towers of Midnight, Mat mostly RJ, Perrin mostly Brandon.
Brandon tried to get moments for every character in A Memory of Light. Egwene is ready to be bad ass in the Last Battle; her character development is done.
Perth Exclusive for #WoT counted scenes by viewpoint. Rand has the most viewpoints in A Memory of Light, not a huge margin. Others tied.
Caveat, still revising A Memory of Light, so that can change.
It's not much but Brandon S just told me that Lan has the most POVs in A Memory of Light, only just ahead of Rand. But that could change with editing.
I thought he said Rand ahead of the other main characters?
That doesn't even make sense. :s Sure, Lan is vital, but it's hard to see how the story could focus on him that much.
Confirmed it was Rand with the highest number of POV scenes in A Memory of Light (at the moment).
I just ask because, like Nynaeve has been channeling longer, and Egwene was forced. And Rand likely was too, and as a man gains strength more swiftly...
Yeah, Elayne might not... I think she is, but she may not quite be there.
Brandon drew a graph of A Memory of Light's structure and explained in some details how he ended up re structuring it as three books. Not much that isn't already known in there, book 12 will have two main story lines (we know it's Rand and Egwene, but as I said Brandon didn't say so explicitly at the Q&A) and teasers for three more (Mat—and seemingly Perrin and Elayne). By 'teasers', Brandon precised he means 3 or 4 chapters per story line, the rest of the chapters being divided between the two main story lines (by recent books, this could means Egwene/Rand have about 10-12 chapters each, or a few more). Some developments happen in the teasers but it's not huge stuff, more like set ups chapters for what happens in book 13.
Book 13 will have the opposite, with 3-4 chapters each for Egwene and Rand, "toward the end". Brandon kept those for book 13 to avoid spoiling in The Gathering Storm the climax of book 13, which will mark the reunion of all the main story lines at some location, and launch Tarmon Gai'don. So in book 13 we will have the residual Rand/Egwene chapters that specifically build up to the reunion.
Brandon explained the decision to split the books this way came about between Harriet and him, in part to avoid the "Crossroads of Twilight trap". Apparently, RJ went that way in Winter's Heart/Crossroads of Twilight mostly because he had been affected by all the grief he got for keeping Mat out of The Path of Daggers. He decided to try to put all the main characters in the next books, even if it meant all the story lines would advance more slowly if they were all told in parallel like this. He very much regretted this after Crossroads of Twilight, for which he got even more grief than for The Path of Daggers, and decided to return to his more organic/uneven approach for Knife of Dreams and A Memory of Light. The original plan for The Gathering Storm was to develop all the story lines in parallel again, but Brandon and Harriet had qualms about this and Brandon came up with an alternative to focus on two story lines in one and three in the other.
There is one of the 'POV clusters' Brandon had written that it mostly unused for The Gathering Storm and will go in book 13.
Brandon of course wouldn't tell who is the character not in The Gathering Storm at all, though he gave a few clues. Piecing all his bits of answers together, the character isn't Aviendha, Cadsuane or Nynaeve, nor Mat (the only character he confirmed is in the two first books, but we already knew this). He basically destroyed the speculation it could be Perrin by hesitating on the words 'major character' and then adding the bit that the vast majority of fans would actually place this character at the very bottom of the list of characters to be considered 'major'. The way he put Elayne over and over among the five really major ones during the Q&A suggests it's not her either after all. He also said while explaining his graph that there were chunks (his "teasers" for three story lines in The Gathering Storm and the core of the story for two—and his 'five' clusters he explicitly said were Rand, Egwene, Perrin, Mat and Elayne.
So perhaps we've read too much in his 'major POV character' comment (Jason's review may also allude to this, when he commented that one major character is missing but it's pretty much up to each reader to decide who is major and not in WOT). At some point, he said a major POV character in A Memory of Light will be missing in The Gathering Storm, which is not exactly the same as saying a major POV character from the earlier books isn't in The Gathering Storm—which is the way his previous comment was interpreted by many.
Lan isn't a major POV character in the earlier books, but now he's on his own he may very well become one in A Memory of Light.
In any case, I'm more and more thinking it's Lan (or possibly Moiraine), not Elayne or Perrin which I doubt many would place 'at the very bottom' of the list of characters to be considered major. Most people would place Elayne not near the bottom at all but among the top 7 or 8 most important characters. Above Moiraine and Lan, Thom, Loial and probably even Min and Aviendha.
"Yes they end up at the same time. I’ll have to give you a MAFO for an exact date for the second, but basically it is sometime in late June early July." In addition Tuon’s scene with Rand was about 3 or 4 weeks before her last scene in the book.
A relatively long discussion of timelines followed. Basically RJ would have the timeline within a story arc follow chronologically but “Jim was crafty” when it came to the overall timeline. Maria has a huge spreadsheet of a timeline but it is not publishable because it is very rough and unintelligible unless you’ve been working with it for a long time.
Did Lanfear and Verin have any contact, and if not did Verin give Egwene the ter'angreal of her own free will?
Yeah she gave it with her own free will and choice. And no contact between Lanfear and Verin.
I don't want to say anything about that because there's a potential confrontation coming up between all of these folks, and so there may be mention made of what various people knew and didn't know.
It's not a big RAFO—it's not like there's some big secret there—but I don't want to say anything that's going to spoil a potential read of scenes that are coming.
Everything that I've read in the notes indicates that they are from his ta'veren nature, and that they are a manifestation of being ta'veren [?] related to his [?]
One of Perrin's manifestations, visions in the Wolf Dream...
Partially. Perrin's manifestation is also...he draws to him things that he needs; what he needs comes to Perrin. That's actually his primary manifestation of being ta'veren.
So what's the difference between what Perrin does and what Egwene does?
Oh boy. Can I get into this? They are similar, but not the same. What Egwene does is partially a Talent of the Power, and it's related to the Power. And Perrin is not.
Is it [?] him being a Wolfbrother?
[?] if he chose to.
It is related to him being a Wolfbrother.
Why can the wolves not see it?
I honestly don't remember the answer to that.
It will be very hard to do simply because, you know, you would have a lot of sentences that would four colors in them (laughter), because, here are three words from Brandon; here are a couple of words from Robert Jordan; the rest are from Harriet, that she has edited, and then here's the insertion by Maria as she's doing the copy-edit, that something needed to be [put] in. It would be very difficult to get right.
The other thing is, Harriet has several times expressed a reluctance to let people see the notes because she doesn't want people focusing when reading the books on what was me and what is Jim. I do still kinda tend to work on her and see if I can get her to let us do something with the notes. I'm not too expectant—if it doesn't happen I'm gonna be fine—but I tend to ask on behalf of the fans, people like yourself, and if I can do that I can then bring them out and I will talk a little bit more about that.
One thing that I've said to people a number of times, that in each of the three books there is a prologue [scene] that Robert Jordan wrote almost completely, or completely, for the prologue of the book, then since we split it in three, I took one scene from each completely that is Robert Jordan's—and there are a few fragments in each prologue as well that were also his—but there's one complete scene in the prologue. In the first book, it was the farmer sitting on the doorsteps watching the storm; that was one of the scenes he dictated, and we actually at JordanConI got to listen to that dictation. In the second book it was the Borderlander tower with the soldier and his son; that was one of the more complete scenes we had from Robert Jordan which had some minimal revision and editing during the process but was basically a complete scene that he gave us. And there's one like that in the third book as well.
In The Gathering Storm, I've said before that, as the notes went, Rand was a little more me; there were fewer notes on Rand. There were more notes on Egwene. We're both involved in all the viewpoints, but Rand from that is a little more me, and Egwene's a little more Robert Jordan, and then in Towers of Midnight, Perrin's a little bit more me, and Mat is a little more Robert Jordan. And maybe we'll be able to release more than that, but so far that's about all I've said. There are certain scenes that he did write, by the way—I'll give you everything; this is what I've told people; I haven't told people much—but there's a certain scene in The Gathering Storm where Egwene has an unexpected meeting with an old friend in the Tower. That one was done by Robert Jordan. And in Towers of Midnight, there is...most of the Mat stuff including the ending where a certain engagement happens was Robert Jordan.
And you don't feel a small measure of pride? Egwene asked herself. Rand al'Thor, once simple village boy and your near-betrothed, now the most powerful man in the world? You don't feel proud of what he's done? (p. 157)
A little bit of spoilers here: One of the big things we got going on is Rand and Egwene on opposite sides of the big decision regarding what needs to happen with the last battle. It's a power struggle that has been brewing for a long time behind the scenes. Some may not have noticed it until I brought it to the forefront in the last book. We've just had a main character who has been gone for a long, long time show up again in the end of Towers of Midnight, and there are ramifications for that. Can we work together? How do we work together?—that's going to be one of the themes.
And, of course, this is the last battle, which means there's a lot of war in this book. And that's actually very different for a Wheel of Time book. There have been big battles before, but not ones that span half of the book or more.
Boy, that's a hard one, because those are going to be personal moments. You describe it quite well, but it's the sort of thing that happens with writing any series. The most personal moments for me honestly happened when I read the ending years ago. For me, the series has been finished already for all of that time. It has been an emotional experience, and I'm certain it will continue to be one.
You also have to remember that writing this was very draining, and that has kind of the opposite emotional effect. But I'm not a terribly emotional person. I'm not sure I can come up with anything specific other than that night sitting and reading the ending that Robert Jordan had written.
This is spoilery, but there's also the moment when I wrote Egwene's death scene—that was probably the most emotional scene I wrote. I finished it, and then it was like a "wow, so that just happened" sort of moment. I don't know if I can describe it in the same way.
For you, reading the book, these moments are going to come like unexpected smacks to the face. For me, I spent five months working on the outline for this book specifically, after I had spent months outlining the other two books. So I knew what was coming, and that makes it a different experience.
There was a new weave used by someone in book 14; did anyone else see it?
"Yes"—and that's all that was spoken about it, since it contained spoilers.
Presumably this is in reference to the "Flame of Tar Valon" weave, which Egwene used in A Memory of Light 37.
(to Melissa) Cool t-shirt! [laughter]
Hi; my name's Melissa Snedeker; I'm from Colorado Springs. I have been reading the series for about ten years now. Love it. My question is to Brandon. There is a notable difference between you and Robert Jordan's writing. I was wondering what the biggest influence that you had on the books [was], and what were your main thoughts that you added on top of Robert Jordan's?
I usually shy away from saying too much about this because we prefer that when you read the books you not spend a lot of time trying to figure out what was me and what was Robert Jordan. It's safe to say that, at any given point in the book, you will find my influence and his influence.
That said, I've said before the epilogue of this book—and significant chunks of the last little part as well, but specifically the epilogue—was written by him before he passed away, so you do know that. Things I've said before—and I'm probably not going to say much more than this, at least until the books have been out for a while—in Gathering Storm, if it was Egwene, Egwene's plotline was more Robert Jordan, and Rand's plotline was a little more me—we both were involved in both, but there is that—and if it was in Towers of Midnight, Mat's plotline was more Robert Jordan, and Perrin's plotline was more me.
But it's really hard to get down into specifics, because I don't want you focusing on that, and beyond that, I've even started to forget. [laughter] Because I've been working on this... No really! You guys laugh about that, but I've been working on it so long, I will do things, and it's things that came out of the notes, and then I'll go back and look and I have forgotten that those things came from the notes, because at this point in the creative process, you're building a book, and you're looking for the inspirations from the stories or from the notes, and they're kind of sometimes the same to me, whether it's the notes or the stories. And so, anyway, I'm sorry to give you kind of a roundabout non-answer to your question, but maybe in another year or so I can say a little bit more. But really, we would rather it just remain....we don't want it to be at the forefront of people's minds when they're reading.
Yeah. Alright, thank you so much.
Egwene. After that, Bela. I'd promised she would live, but Harriet decided that I was cheating to keep her alive.
How long did it take you to write Egwene's death? What were your emotions then? How much had RJ written of it?
It was a hard one, to be sure. Hardest in the books. Had a long conversation with Team Jordan about how to manage it.
RJ had not written much of that sequence.
Why did Egwene have to die? Very sad.
I agree. But if you look at the arc of her character, you might begin to see why it was important.
Without spoilers, were there any characters you want to kill/save that you couldn't do to Jordan's wishes?
There was one. But it was Harriet's call, not RJ's, that ended them.
Who did you find hardest to kill?
Egwene by a mile. Followed by Bela.
Why did you kill Bela?
I tried to keep her alive! Harriet told me I'd put her in too bad a situation, and she needed to die.
She was right, of course, but it still hurts.
I can't remember what RJ has said about when a spirit is linked to a body in WoT terms.
RJ said viability.
I thought that's what he had said. So I'd say there is a chance. (But as you can guess, the notes don't say.)
It was witnessed. That's it.
There was a little more to the question above, but I left it out of this log for two reasons: One, I had a really hard time keeping up with the person asking the question, not to mention Brandon trying to answer, plus the guy who asked the question broke the "no spoilers in the Q&A" rule.
Vora's sa'angreal—was it always in the notes that it didn't have the buffer against over-drawing?
Yes, that was always its setup according to the notes, though Brandon gets credit for naming the thing.
How do Egwene, Nynaeve and Moiraine know Moridin's name? (Egwene mentions Moridin by name when talking to Rand at the meeting of the Field of Merrilor; Nynaeve and Moiraine each mention Moridin by name in respective POV while in Shayol Ghul.)
BWS paused for at least 10 seconds before answering. He said that he thought he remembered answering this question before and did not want to give me a misleading answer. BWS said Rand told each of the 3 women Moridin's name in an off-screen conversation.
(Concerning the crystals collapsing into the hill after the battle) Have you heard of a myth about Merlin in a crystal cave and the Holy Grail? We all know what its other name is.
Yes but there are many layers there. The sa'angreal was shaped like a cup (-which I did notice earlier-). And Bao the Wyld, think about the name, it sounds like Beowulf (-looks like I should read that for more theorizing-).
Um...did you notice...(in a louder voice)...has everybody standing around me read the book?
Okay, spoiler! Just warning you.
Spoilers! Okay, did you notice any good foreshadowings for Egwene's death aside from Guinevere and the Year of the Four Amyrlins?
Um...(laughs, looks at Jenn)....those are very good. I mean, it's mostly, you know, the Guinevere myth and things like that, but there's...(to Jenn)...there's others, aren't there?
The Year of the Four Amyrlins is the only, like, really nice one that I've latched on to, you know? Because it's like, she's talking about, "It's almost like now..." and it's like, "Everybody came to grief in the end...." And it's like...yeah.
You were the person with the Moiraine question. RJ wrote in his notes that main purpose of Moiraine is to prevent a war between Rand and Egwene. And then she was to go with him into the Pit of Doom, but in the Pit of Doom there was nothing for her to do. And I felt bad about that, but that's what he instructed. It was hard to come up with stuff for everyone to have a part and a role. But I did what he instructed. It was a good question, people wondered. She did have an important role to play.
Egwene, was that your idea or Robert Jordan's?
I haven't been telling people about that one specifically. Almost all the deaths in the book were RJ's instructions, but I did choose a few of them. So, it could been either one of us.
Brandon, I'm excited for your AMA. Maybe if you see it you could answer this for me?
First off, thanks for A Memory of Light. Probably my favorite fantasy book to-date! (Way of Kings is competing though) My question is why did RJ have you spend SO much time to build up Egwene as a character (Amyrlin, Dreamwalker, inventor of weaves, super awesome character, etc) just to kill her off in the end? Was this RJ's decision or someone else's? She's the only character I am so angry about dying. It's been a few months and I'm still distraught over her death. Please tell me why?!
It is never my intention to just "kill off" a character for shock value, and I can assume that RJ felt the same way, from what I've read and studied. That said, the answer to your question comes down to believing that almost every character sees themselves as the hero of their own story. Even if you know they are eventually going to die, you usually don't want to write it that way. (The exception is for tragic characters, where the foreshadowing of their impending demise is a natural consequence of their bad choices.)
In the case of a protagonist being lost, the proper course (in my eyes) is to build them up in exactly the same way that you would build up everyone else. Maybe even more. You must make them LIVE before they can die.
Getting back to what I said at the start, I never "kill off" characters. I allow characters to take the risks they demand, and even sacrifice themselves if they demand, for the good of the goals they want to achieve. Again, I can only assume RJ had a similar philosophy from what I've read.
I haven't answered yet who decided that the particularly character you mention should die—because, in the end, it was the character's choice, and not ours. My job is not to coddle them, but to make certain their death is a good one. (And if I failed in that regard, I apologize.)
Sigh. Well, while that wasn't quite the answer I was searching for, I think it's the answer I needed. Thank you for starting my heart on the road to recovery.
Yes, this death was a good one. Thank you for doing your job in this regard the right way. You'll always get an upvote from me.
The Flame of Tar Valon—what does it do other than shore up the Pattern? Does it have effects also opposite to balefire? Was the weave related to the weave that Rand used to seek out Shadowspawn in The Dragon Reborn?
This is left for your consideration and discussion for now.
When you took over writing the Wheel of Time series, was there anything that RJ had in his notes that just completely surprised you?
Hmm... The scene where Egwene gets a specific visitor in The Gathering Storm surprised me the most, I think. Also, at the end of Towers where Moiraine and Thom get engaged. I hadn't noticed how strong the clues about those two were.
The Egwene plot was an absolute delight to work on. Of all the things that Robert Jordan had been building for this last book (including the final chapter) before he died, I feel this was the most fully formed. Egwene's rise and the Seanchan assault played together perfectly in classic Wheel of Time fashion, and I got to participate in unique ways, working with his notes and instructions to craft his plotlines exactly as I feel he envisioned them.
One large change I did make was splitting the Egwene dinner with Elaida into two distinct scenes, instead of one single scene. I felt the pacing worked much better this way, and it complemented the Rand sequence better with the first dinner happening, Egwene getting sent to further work, then a climactic second dinner happening where I could really bring about Egwene's victory, all without her ever channeling.
In the Egwene sequence, I got to do the most truly collaborative work with Robert Jordan. In other places, I inserted scenes he'd written. In many others, I had to go with my gut, lacking instruction. With Egwene, I had a blend of explanations of scenes, written scenes, and Q&A prompts from Robert Jordan that made me feel as if I were working directly with him to bring about the sequence. If you want to see a full sequence in the books that I think is the closest to the way he'd have done it if he could have, I'd suggest the Egwene sequence in The Gathering Storm. (And beyond. Most of what we have for her was by his direction, inclusive of the events leading up to—and including—Merrilor.)
Perrin is my favorite character in the series, and has been since I was a youth. Like many readers, I was frustrated by his choices through the later books, though the writer in me really appreciated Robert Jordan's skillful guidance of the character. The problems Perrin confronted (sometimes poorly) highlighted his uncomfortable relationship with the wolves, his unwillingness to cut himself a break, and his ability to devote himself so utterly to one task that everything else vanished. (As a note, I feel this is one of the major things that made me empathize with Perrin for all those years. Of the main characters, he is the only artist. However, he's an artist like me—a focused project builder. A craftsman.)
Though I wanted to be careful not to overdo the concept, one of my goals in these last few books was to bring back ideas and conflicts from the first books—creating parallels and emphasizing the cyclical nature of the Wheel of Time. Again, this was dangerous. I didn't want these books to become a series of in-jokes, homages, and repetitions.
However, there are places where it was not only appropriate, but vital that we return to these themes. I felt one of those involved the Whitecloaks and Perrin, specifically the two Children of the Light he had killed during his clash with them in the very first book. This was a tricky sequence to plot. I wanted Perrin to manifest leadership in a way different from Rand or Egwene. Robert Jordan instructed that Perrin become a king, and I loved this plot arc for him—but in beginning it with the Whitecloaks, I threatened to leave Perrin weak and passive as a character. Of all the sequences in the books, I struggled with this one the most—mostly because of my own aspirations, goals, and dreams for what Perrin could become.
His plot is my favorite of the four for those reasons.
I had other goals for Perrin in this book. His experiences in the Wolf Dream needed to return, I felt, and push toward a final climax in the Last Hunt. This meant returning to a confrontation with Slayer, a mirrored character to Perrin with a dual nature. I wanted to highlight Perrin's instinctive use of his powers, as a contrast to the thoughtful, learned use of power represented by Egwene. People have asked if I think Perrin is better at Tel'aran'rhiod than Egwene. I don't think he is, the balefire-bending scene notwithstanding. They represent two sides of a coin, instinct and learning. In some cases Perrin will be more capable, and in others Egwene will shine.
The forging of Perrin's hammer, the death of Hopper, and the wounding of Perrin in the leg (which is mythologically significant) were in my narrative plan for him from the get-go. However, weaving them all together involved a lot of head/wall-bashing. I wanted a significance to Perrin's interactions with the Way of the Leaf as well, and to build a rapport between him and Galad—in my reads of the characters, I felt they would make for unlikely friends.
Of all the major plot sequences in the books, Perrin's was the one where I had the most freedom—but also the most danger of straying too far from Robert Jordan's vision for who the character should be. His instructions for Perrin focused almost entirely on the person Perrin would be after the Last Battle, with little or no direction on how to bring him there. Perrin was fully in my hands, and I wanted to take extra care to guide my favorite character toward the ending.
I will note, by the way, that Verin's interaction with Egwene in The Gathering Storm was my biggest surprise from the notes. My second biggest was the Thom/Moiraine engagement. Robert Jordan wrote that scene, and I was surprised to read it. (As I said, though I loved and had read the books, there are plenty of fans who were bigger fans than myself—and to them, this was no surprise.) I didn't pick up the subtle hints of a relationship between the two of them until my reread following my getting the notes.
There were three particular things that were quite a challenge in writing this last book. The first was how to use Rand fighting the Dark One in a way that would be interesting, visual, and powerful. The second was how to do the tactics of a large-scale battle. The final one had to do with Egwene.
In his notes, Robert Jordan was very specific about the fact that Rand and Egwene needed to almost come to blows in the lead-up to the Last Battle. He called it the grand union of the armies against Rand, whose decisions were considered too radical, too dangerous, to be allowed to proceed. Moiraine was to be the force that brought the two of them together, unifying the armies of light, cementing her importance—and showing why she needed to be rescued by Mat before the Last Battle. (There were a lot of instructions about what Moiraine was to say, and some good writing on that meeting at the Field of Merrilor.)
The burden upon me was to realistically bring Rand and Egwene to the point where the reader believed they'd fight one another—or at least go to the Last Battle separately, without cohesion—if Moiraine hadn't intervened. This was difficult. Having The Gathering Storm end on such a high note for Egwene left me struggling to figure out how, in Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light, to make her go at cross-purposes to Rand without alienating the reader from her viewpoints. I felt what she was doing was very realistic and in character for who she was, but I also knew that making the decisions she would make was going to cause some readers to be very annoyed with her.
In the end, I decided that the proper course was to let them be annoyed. The very same strength that had made Egwene shine in The Gathering Storm was also the strength that let her lead the Aes Sedai—of whom she had truly become one. The will of the Aes Sedai against the rest of the world is a major theme of the Wheel of Time, and say what you will of it, the theme is consistent—as are the characters. Egwene was at their head. Yes, I wanted her to be relatable, but I also wanted it clear that she was Aes Sedai, and she wasn't about to let someone else dominate the decisions on how to approach the Last Battle.
Without delving too much into specifics, because I'm not sure exactly what's going to end up in the encyclopedia and what's going to end up in the notes, and things like this. Without going too much into specifics, for the Last Battle itself a lot of what Robert Jordan left me are concepts: concepts on this is how I want this to feel, the big crux of the Last Battle comes down to this question, this is where someone's crowning moment is—these sorts of emotions. It was like he was laying down the emotional beats, and the actual how to put it together—a lot of that was left in my hands. He did have some brainstorms on that, but some of those brainstorms were from years ago, before he wrote... For instance, I've mentioned before that there is a brainstorm we have on "here's how Rand is going to do it"—here's a brainstorm that Robert Jordan had left. But he'd written this brainstorm around book 7 or 6 or something, and it involved the Choedan Kal—both of them. And we're like, well he obviously threw that out the window and decided not to go with that. But some of these brainstorms that he'd had, we can say, oh this is the emotional resonance he's going for. Looking at the idea between we want to have the different powers work together, to work in this way from his brainstorm, even though we can't do it in the way that he was thinking of doing it ten years ago, we can still see the sort of thing that he was going for.
And the scene that Terez mentioned at the end mentions Rand's big revelation that needed to happen so that the last moments could occur—he's reflecting on that when he comes out. And so we knew this emotional resonance that Robert Jordan wanted. And we had all these sort of other things where he talks about just the feel he wants and things like this. And so a lot of the specifics—how to put these things together—were things that I pitched to Team Jordan to fit the framework of the notes, and then we tried out and saw if they worked. Which is kinda how you do writing, at least if you're an outliner like me. I pitch ideas at myself, I build an outline out of it, and I try it out and see if it works. And what ended up in the book are the things that did work. What didn't end up in the book are the things that didn't work. For instance, "River of Souls", which was in the (Unfettered) anthology, is one of the things I mentioned—that's the sort of thing that we tried that doesn't work. And the reason a lot of times that these things are being cut is because we are striving for that balance between "let's push the story in new and innovative ways" between "let's make sure we're not straying too far from Robert Jordan's vision". And something like "River of Souls" strayed too far, and also kind of was distracting from the main point of the book—there were two big reasons to cut that sequence. But you see us doing things like that, and so the ones we end up with... A lot of these things about the actual Last Battle are me looking to put together what I feel creates the emotional resonance and the plot structure that Robert Jordan wanted for this ending.
I've said before that the main bulk of the writing we had for this last book involved three main areas: the Epilogue, the scene at the Field of Merrilor where Moiraine shows up and things like this, and the scene at the beginning in the Town, the village in the Waste—what does he call it? Does he call it the Town? The Town is what he calls it. Yeah. And those are three places where we have kind of unchanged Robert Jordan writing. Granted, all through the books, each of the books, you'll find sprinklings where I'm able to use a paragraph or two, or a page, or something from his notes that spawns a chapter, but that's where we have untouched Robert Jordan writing in this last book—I think those are the three main places.
In your opinion who is stronger in the the world of dreams? Perrin or Egwene?
I'd say that at this point, it's less a matter of who is stronger, and more a matter of what they're doing. Perrin could probably win a fight, but his raw knowledge and understanding is less—he works on instinct.