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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A sort of slenderized Burl Ives, with the same intelligent, probing eyes, ebullient manner, and faintly mischievous grin, Jordan, now in his 40s, is exploring the realm of fantasy after successful sojourns along a number of literary paths.
Judging by the review and the sales—his pen seems as formidable as a highwayman's blade, or a sorcerer's talisman.
Jordan, who also writes under the pseudonyms "Reagan O'Neal" and "Jackson O'Reilly," recently completed the second in a planned six-book fantasy series for Tor Books collectively entitled "The Wheel of Time." The first installment, The Eye of the World, was four years in the writing. It was released in February 1990 to broad acclaim, ascending the bestseller list. Volume two, The Great Hunt, was published this fall, with the third book tentatively scheduled for December 1991.
"There's also a commercial consideration having to do with what publishers will accept. If I'd write a horror novel under the name Robert Jordan, publishers will accept. But if I went with a Robert Jordan mystery—that far out of genre—there would probably be a big fight over it, the kind of distraction I would just as soon avoid. Not that I haven't had my share of disagreements with editors and publishers.
"Beyond all that, I also enjoy the multiple identities."
Someone asked RJ, "Why the pseudonym?"
He replied, "What makes you think it's a pseudonym?" which the questioner followed with, "Well, I've that it is from a number of people." RJ finished with, "Well, yeah, I've heard all sorts of things from all sorts of people."
For Rohit and Mand680, Robert Jordan doesn't come out of Hemingway. In fact, when I first made the connection, I had already written three books under the name. My pen names have all been chosen from three lists of names using my real initials. It has been a matter of one from column A and one from column B, or maybe column C. One pen name actually managed to contain all three initials in a first name and a surname.
To keep different genres separate. The other books were written before I began The Wheel of Time, and my publisher has re-issued them and insisted on doing them as "Robert Jordan writing as." But, I made them put the other pen name as large as possible on the cover so that they didn't do "ROBERT JORDAN writing as." As it was, I didn't want anybody to think that they were getting a new Robert Jordan novel, when what they were getting was a historical novel or a western that I wrote 15 or 20 years ago.
You're not doing those anymore, then?
No. I'm not saying I won't ever do them again.
Thank you! I'm also glad for the chance to visit your beautiful city. I’ve been to not a few places, but this is my first time in Russia. Many thanks to the organizers of the Wanderer Fantasy Convention who invited me to St. Petersburg. And my special thanks to them for the opportunity to visit Peterhof and admire its magnificent fountains. Fountains have fascinated me since childhood ...
What is the proper way to address you?—Mr. Robert Jordan? Or Mr. James Rigney ... Or in some other way?
Call me, as we do it in America, just James.
Or Robert? ...
Robert is fine too. I'm used to it. I’m often addressed exactly so in meetings with readers.
By the way, how many names does the multifaceted James Oliver Rigney, Jr. have?
Not very many, but also not a few. Under the pseudonym Reagan O'Neal the historical novels The Fallon Blood, The Fallon Legacy and The Fallon Pride were published. The events in them takes place during the American Revolution, around my hometown of Charleston. The name Jackson O'Reilly is on the cover of the western Cheyenne Raiders. My critical pieces on theater and dance I signed Chang Lung. And under the pseudonym Robert Jordan the novels of the Conan series and the The Wheel of Time series were published.
I've edited every single one of his books except for his Cheyenne Raiders. An agent said to me once, "What if he gave you a real piece of [crap]?" And I said, "But he never would!" Tom Doherty called me; he had gotten the rights to do a Conan the Barbarian novel. And I said, "Well, Jim could do it." And he liked doing it so much, he ended up writing seven of them.
He was using a new name. As you know, Jim used pen names.
Over the next decade, Rigney wrote under many pen names: Jackson O'Reilly, Reagan O'Neal, and of course, Robert Jordan.
J.O.R.—That was his initials, and I guess the rest just grew because, the way his mind worked, he'd be working on current stuff, but on the back burner, things were cooking away.
Jim said that he had just dreamed to write a big fantasy.
He said his first thought was just, how would it be to be told that you are going to be the savior of the world, but you're going to go mad and kill everyone you love in the process?
We bought the book in the mid-80s.
It was four years of actual work, with words on paper, before he finished The Eye of the World.
God, I fell in love with it. I read it, you know, and I said, you know, boy, this is big. This is the first thing I thought could sell like Tolkien.
The New York Times called Robert Jordan the American heir to Tolkien.
Pretty strong statement for the times.
In a matter of three books, Robert Jordan had developed an international following.
Robert Jordan was a genius. He kept so much in his head. He had so much depth and wealth of worldbuilding for this series, it's mind-boggling. We've got somewhere around three million plus words of text. The notes are just as big.
There are very few things to which people had been willing to give this enormous commitment.
So after Ender's Game, the second Tor book that I can remember reading was The Eye of the World and the other Wheel of Time books. There were all these rumors out there about how many books it was planned to be and what it was originally pitched as. Tom, I think we need to hear it from your mouth: the first-hand witness of that pitch when James Rigney came in. Was it this office right here?
Well, actually we'd already done three books with him. The Fallon Blood, The Fallon Pride, and The Fallon Legacy. He did them under a different pen name.
Right. Reagan O'Neal.
They had started out to be one book. He was going to do a big historical novel of the American Revolution, but it ended up being three fat books.
When he came in and said he wanted to do a big epic fantasy novel, we said, "Well, a big epic fantasy?" He said, "Well, maybe it'll be a trilogy." So I suggested a six book contract, and when he said no I said "Okay, you know if you finish it in three, we'll just do a different trilogy." He said, "Well, all right, if you insist."
Didn't you tell me that, when he gave the pitch on the first book, it really ended where the third book now ends, with the sword that's not a sword being taken from the stone that's not a stone?
Well, he didn't actually, no. He didn't give me a very detailed outline, but I didn't really need one because he'd done such a great job with the Fallon trilogy and Harriet [McDougal, Robert Jordan's widow and editor] was sold on it. Harriet had edited the Fallon trilogy.
Right. She tells the story that she called you after reading the few chapters of The Eye of the World that she'd read and said, "You need to look into this thing, because either I've fallen into the wife trap after all these years, or this is the best thing I've ever read." [Note: Harriet McDougal told the same story during her conversation with Tom Doherty.]
I don't remember her saying that, but she did call me and say, "Hey, this is special." And I read it, and it was special. We did some things with those books that were pretty major for a small, independent company.