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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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Jordan said he didn't really know, as he is constantly writing and cutting parts. He writes from the beginning of the story to the end, and then cuts and edits large chunks, pulling together threads. He doesn't even think about a working title, but lets the story determine it.
He says there will be at least three more books, maybe four.
Jordan knows the very last part of the final book, but doesn't know how long it will be till he'll put it in.
One humorous story mentions the quote saying he will continue writing until the day the nails are put into his coffin. One elderly lady apparently told him that she was a lot closer to that than he was so he had better hurry up.
My dear fellow rasfwrjians, as (to the best of my knowledge) the only one of us to attend the signing at Science Fiction, Mysteries, and More on Thursday, I feel obliged to report what Jordan said there, and my impressions.
Robert Jordan was stockier, shorter, and better cushioned than I expected. He wore a wide brimmed hat and walked with a cane with a ram's horn like handle. Generally he was open and friendly. When he came in late he explained that it was because Princess Di was in New York to meet Bill Clinton to discuss Vince Foster's suicide. However he made repeated references to being worn out and overworked by Lord of Chaos.
I think the only other WoT-related comment I heard was that if RJ dies before this is done, we won't find out about this famous last scene since the hard drives of his computers will be reformatted six times and every scrap of paper in his house having anything to do with tWoT will be burned. He seems to feel quite strongly about this... On a related topic we may get an encyclopedia after the series ends, but no endless series publishing all of his notes, analogous to Christopher Tolkien's History of Middle Earth volumes.
He said the book-signing tour will run through November 22nd. He'll spend two days fishing in Canada, and then return home to Charleston for Thanksgiving. (He said he finds being on tour exhausting, and always spends the following several days doing nothing at all.) After Thanksgiving, he'll start in on the next volume.
Someone mentioned the Internet-based rumors about him suffering from heart attacks / other forms of poor health. I couldn't tell from his expression whether RJ was amused or annoyed: Probably both equally. He replied that he's in good health with a resting heart rate of 71 beats per minute and good cholesterol.
He told quite a few people that the series would be requiring a minimum of three more volumes, perhaps more—and pointed out that he'd had to find time to work on "New Spring" and the Guide, in addition to The Path of Daggers. He also pointed out that, so far, the books have always been published within a month of completion, which he called "instantaneous for the publishing world". He stressed that he wants to reach the end (the final scene that he worked out 15 years ago), and would like to be "as compact as possible". (He said "Don't laugh.")
What does the future hold for you?
Well, I’d like to catch a thousand-pound black marlin, a thirty-pound brown trout, and a sixty-pound Atlantic salmon. I’d like to shoot a twenty-four point whitetail and a perfect round in sporting clays. I’d like to get another royal Flush in poker—I got one, once—finally learn how to play go beyond the basics. I’d like to learn to sky dive, and.... Oh. More writing, certainly, for as long as I can find a way to put words on paper. I used to keep notebooks of story ideas, until I realized that I wold need three or four lifetimes to write just the ideas already had. I would like to do different sorts of writing, too. History, stage-plays. I’ve been noodling around lately with the idea of musical composition, too, something I haven’t touched in many years. Given the way medicine advances, I might have lived little more than half my life so far, which means I have a few decades remaining. Not enough to do everything I want to do, but I think I can fill them up.
He also mentioned some things about the variation in his readers. This group of Hell's Angels a couple of years ago who came to him when there was some question about his health, telling him that they'd desecrate his grave if he died before finishing the story.
Around the same time something was asked about him knowing the final scene (or maybe that was even earlier), because Rowling [the Harry Potter author; at least, I think it was her that was mentioned here] had already written the final sentence of her work. Jordan came with the usual story about him knowing the scene since before starting the series. He doesn't have it written down anywhere. Harriet already knows the final scene, she's very good at getting things out of him (at least, that's what I think I recall), but no one else... And then later he said absolutely nobody knew it besides him.
I certainly have no intention of retiring. As a matter of fact, I've said quite seriously, I intend to keep writing until they nail my coffin shut, and if I can get a keyboard into the coffin, or even a yellow pad and a pencil, I'm not guaranteeing I'll stop then.
At the moment, I am working on a comic book with the Dabel Brothers and Red Eagle Entertainment. It is a comic book adaptation of New Spring, the novel. It will be eight issues, I believe it is, and when it is done, they will be gathered as a graphic novel. The artwork is by a guy named Mike Miller, and it is simply fantastic, I have to tell you. It's really just fantastic artwork. The way we worked that is Chuck Dixon, who's a well known writer of comic books, comes up with the script, sends it to me. I make changes and send it back to him, and then it goes to Mike Miller for the drawings. And then the inks are sent to me, and I say, "Well, you've got to do this, you have to do that." And then the colors are sent to me, and I say, "Well, no no no, this is not quite right and that's right." And eventually the comic comes out.
For Sidious and various others, My comments about arrangements in case of my death (burning the notes, doing triple Guttman wipes on the hard drives, etc.) were mainly a defense against any fans who became so frantic to see the end that they thought knocking me off might result in somebody else finishing the books faster.
I have been diagnosed with amyloidosis. That is a rare blood disease which affects only 8 people out of a million each year, and those 8 per million are divided among 22 distinct forms of amyloidosis. They are distinct enough that while some have no treatment at all, for the others, the treatment that works on one will have no effect whatsoever on any of the rest. An amyloid is a misshapen or misfolded protein that can be produced by various parts of the body and which may deposit in other parts of the body (nerves or organs) with varying effects. (As a small oddity, amyloids are associated with a wide list of diseases ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome to Alzheimer's. There's no current evidence of cause and effect, and none of these is considered any form of amyloidosis, but the amyloids are always there. So it is entirely possible that research on amyloids may one day lead to cures for Alzheimer's and the Lord knows what else. I've offered to be a literary poster boy for the Mayo Amyloidosis Program, and the May PR Department, at least, seems very interested. Plus, I've discovered a number of fans in various positions at the clinic, so maybe they'll help out.)
Now in my case, what I have is primary amyloidosis with cardiomyapathy. That means that some (only about 5% at present) of my bone marrow is producing amyloids which are depositing in the wall of my heart, causing it to thicken and stiffen. Untreated, it would eventually make my heart unable to function any longer and I would have a median life expectancy of one year from diagnosis. Fortunately, I am set up for treatment, which expands my median life expectancy to four years. This does NOT mean I have four years to live. For those who've forgotten their freshman or pre-freshman (high school or junior high) math, a median means half the numbers fall above that value and half fall below. It is NOT an average.
In any case, I intend to live considerably longer than that. Everybody knows or has heard of someone who was told they had five years to live, only that was twenty years ago and here they guy is, still around and kicking. I mean to beat him. I sat down and figured out how long it would take me to write all of the books I currently have in mind, without adding anything new and without trying rush anything. The figure I came up with was thirty years. Now, I'm fifty-seven, so anyone my age hoping for another thirty years is asking for a fair bit, but I don't care. That is my minimum goal. I am going to finish those books, all of them, and that is that.
My treatment starts in about 2 weeks at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where they have seen and treated more cases like mine than anywhere else in the US. Basically, it boils down to this. They will harvest a good quantity of my bone marrow stem cells from my blood. These aren't the stem cells that have Bush and Cheney in a swivet; they can only grow into bone marrow, and only into my bone marrow at that. Then will follow two days of intense chemotherapy to kill off all of my bone marrow, since there is no way at present to target just the misbehaving 5%. Once this is done, they will re-implant my bmsc to begin rebuilding my bone marrow and immune system, which will of course go south with the bone marrow. Depending on how long it takes me to recuperate sufficiently, 6 to 8 weeks after checking in, I can come home. I will have a fifty-fifty chance of some good result (25% chance of remission; 25% chance of some reduction in amyloid production), a 35-40% chance of no result, and a 10-15% chance of fatality. Believe me, that's a Hell of a lot better than staring down the barrel of a one-year median. If I get less than full remission, my doctor already, she says, has several therapies in mind, though I suspect we will heading into experimental territory. If that is where this takes me, however, so be it. I have thirty more years worth of books to write even if I can keep from thinking of any more, and I don't intend to let this thing get in my way.
Jim Rigney/Robert Jordan
Well, guys, the letter in Locus is indeed from me. I had hoped to be a little more focused with this and get a post up here before anything came out in Locus, or anywhere else public, so you would get it first, but I flat forgot that Charles has his on-line version of Locus now, too. Sorry about that.
Don't get too upset, guys. Worse comes to worst, I will finish A Memory of Light, so the main story arc, at least, will be completed. And frankly, as I said, I intend to beat this thing. Anything can be beaten with the right attitude, and my attitude is, I have too many books to write yet for me to just lie down. Don't have time for it. Besides, I promised Harriet I'd be around for our 50th, and that means another 25 years from this month right there. Can't break a promise to Harriet, now can I?
I had intended to go on with a few answers to questions when I made this post (I see some interesting ones), but that will have to wait, I'm afraid. I have a few other things to get done first. Maybe I'll be able to get that up this afternoon or tomorrow. No promises, though. Before I go to Mayo, though, I promise. And updates from the Mayo as I can manage.
Oh, yes. When the hair goes, with the chemo—as it is very likely to do—I'll post some before and after shots, just so people showing up in Seattle and Anchorage won't think we've run in a ringer. Yes, I plan to keeping those signings in late June. The chemo and recuperation should be finished by mid-to-late May, so I can make it. Hey, there will be big salmon running in Alaska at that time, and I never passed up a chance at big fish in my life.
Again, sorry that you got the news in such a raggedy fashion. I really did mean to handle things more smoothly.
Take care, guys. Until the next time.
All my best,
Several people have cautioned me against planning to make the June trips when I'll be having the chemo in April, but I intend to make that trip if I need a wheelchair to get on and off the airplane and a chair to sit in to fish. That is part of my commitment. No retreat, no surrender. From day one, I push back. Amyloidosis picked the wrong body to hang out in. Come late June, I'll be there in Seattle, and in Anchorage, and if I have to wear a mask, that's just fine, because I WILL be there.
Well, there are a whole slew more questions waiting in the stack, but I am going to knock off for the afternoon. Tomorrow, Harriet and I leave for Minnesota, but my younger brother Reynolds arrived night before last, my close cousin Wilson arrived yesterday afternoon, and another cousin, Tom III, is expected to arrive any moment. It will be the first time in about 25 years that all four of us have been together. We are all having dinner at a good steakhouse tonight, and I'm looking forward to it.
Some of you may be wondering why I've come out and told you so much about is going on with me. It's simple, actually. Over the years I've done my best to stomp on false rumors about my health, or about me having been hit by a bus or the like. As near as I can figure, rumor has had me dead about three times, possibly four, and near death's door at least that often. So I looked at this in two ways. One, this was all going to be a prime source of rumors once word began leaking out. And it would leak out. So I might as well start the damage control early. Two, since I had stomped all over those earlier rumors, maybe I owed it to you to come clean from the start. Between the two points, I decided I would be open. I'll post from time to time at Mayo, though I won't make promises about how often or at what length. There will be times when I'm too sick to post; that much is a given. There will be other times when what I might have to post would be nothing you care to read. I do promise that I'll try not to bore you.
So until my first post from the Mayo Clinic, you guys take care.
All my best,
For Alessandra, amyloidosis of my sort means a heart transplant is really out of the question. The amyloids would just start depositing in the new heart and eventually wreck it, too. I don't think I could even get approved for a transplant for that very reason. Anyway, I intend to beat this thing, not just dodge it.
For a number of people who have pointed out the advances made lately, especially in Australia with fighting the amyloids related to Alzheimer's, those amyloids are quite different in type and location from mine. Some of the work crosses over, and some does not. As to whether these discoveries will have any effect for me long-term, we'll just have to wait and see.
Mario Plateau asks how can we deal with death, and Anne asks whether I am afraid of death. You deal with death the way you deal with breathing, or with air. Death is a natural and inevitable end. We all come to it eventually. I'm not eager for death, certainly, and I intend to fight it, but neither am I afraid of death. I made my accommodations with death a long ago, when I was a young man. Face to face with it, however, I have discovered a fear that never occurred to me all those years ago. When I die, Harriet will be left to deal with the aftermath. God, I'd give anything to spare her that. If I needed a reason to fight, that would be reason enough by itself.
Take care, guys. More soon.
In the Internet age, fans can engage with a book long after they've finished it. They go online, meet other fans and participate in role-playing games. There's even a Web site profiling couples who have met and married because of the series. (One happy couple, Amber and Markku of Espoo, Finland, met in a "clan" devoted to the Wheel of Time board game.) Rabid Jordan fans know all about Harriet, his wife and editor, and they even sent her care packages when they learned he was ill.
Jordan's connection with his fans has grown even stronger since he began blogging about his illness. He has commented on his flat "behind" and opined on the virtues of Tabasco sauce. When readers asked his thoughts on death, however, Jordan, a Vietnam veteran and former atomic engineer, became more philosophical.
Jordan plans to live another 30 years—long enough, he says to finish all the books that are in his head right now. That will require a large dose of luck, and so far, his luck has been mixed. The new drug he's taking seems to be working well. Still, he can write for two hours a day at most, compared with eight or nine hours in healthier times. At this rate, he'll submit the final book in 2008 for publication in 2009, says Tom Doherty, president of Tor Books, Jordan's publisher.
If he gets better, he'll write faster. No one wants to talk about the alternative. If he dies, could someone else finish the series? Authors like V.C. Andrews and Mario Puzo have posthumously passed along their series to other writers. Still, some fans worry that another author, even Harriet, wouldn't be true to Jordan's voice. Jordan, however, is open to the idea.
"I'm getting out notes, so if the worst actually happens, someone could finish A Memory of Light and have it end the way I want it to end," he says. "But I hope to be around to actually finish it myself."
The decision, Jordan says, will be left to Harriet and Doherty, who has been a close friend and colleague for years. But Doherty isn't ready to address that possibility.
"I'm not prepared to concede that that's going to happen," Doherty says. "I'm working on the belief that he's going to beat this thing. Who else can tell this story?"
Recently, I've been reading interviews that Mr. Jordan did before he died. (Thank you to those who have sent these to me.) I had already read some of the questions and answers, but others were fresh to me. I'm very interested in his comments as I want to make extra certain I don't miss-step and contradict anything he said in an interview, even if that information didn't appear in the books or the notes for the final volume.
I've found a lot of his answers very interesting. Among the more tragic are the ones that came when people asked him what would happen to his series if he died before it was finished. It kind of twists my heart a little bit each time I read a question like that, knowing what eventually happened.
In response to most of these situations, Mr. Jordan was joking and whimsical. Common responses were along the lines of "You'd better hope that doesn't happen, otherwise you'll never get to see that last ending I've been planning all these years!" He often indicated that he'd leave instructions to have all of his notes burned and his disc drives wiped, then reformatted six or seven times so that nobody would ever know how the story came out.
Humorous tone set aside, I see something in these responses. Inside, I think the concept of anyone else working on the Wheel of Time was very painful for Mr. Jordan. I really think that early on, he was against the idea of anyone else finishing the last book, should he die.
However, Harriet has talked to me of the last days before his death, and I also have transcripts of the final dictations he made. Transcripts that talk about what should happen, how people should end up, and how the ending should be written. The tone of these writings and of what Harriet talked about is very different from his earlier comments. It's humbling to see how he changed, instead becoming determined—insistent, even—that the last book be finished after he passed away. Harriet mentioned to me that he didn't want to select someone himself. That thought was too hard for him. I can understand why.
In the end, I see this as his last gift to all of us. As an artist, I can completely understand why he wouldn't want someone else to work on his world and his books. And if he had actually decided to leave instructions for the final book not to be completed, I am sure—very sure—that Harriet would have seen to it that his will was followed. But that wasn't what he decided. He demanded that this book be written. Even though I know that the idea brought him pain.
This was his final sacrifice and gift for you all—the decision to give us the last scenes and instructions for the book, rather than taking that knowledge to the grave with him. From what I've heard of the last months of his life, I know that he spent a surprising amount of time giving dictations, telling about places that nobody else knew existed, and explaining how the characters were to end up.
There are a fair number of people who are against this project happening in any form. They don't make up the bulk of the fan community; in fact, they seem like a very, very small percentage. There are others who aren't opposed to the book being finished in general, but who are opposed to me specifically working on it—though this group is even smaller than the first. Either way, I can sincerely understand both complaints. It seems to me that the Robert Jordan of five years ago would have been in the first group himself!
I have repeatedly acknowledged that I can't replace him. But he wanted this book done, and I'm increasingly confident that I'm the best choice for this project. There are plenty of fantasy authors out there who are better writers than I am—George Martin, Tad Williams, Neil Gaiman, and Robin Hobb all come to mind, among others—but I don't know of another author publishing in fantasy right now who has been as close to these books and these characters as I have been over the last eighteen years.
Knowing that Mr. Jordan was distressed about the concept of anyone finishing the books makes me even more determined to write a book that he would have been—that he will be—proud of. He loved you all very much. Those who complained about the time he took to finish books, or the length of the series, did not know the man at all. He did not write this series to the length he did because of money; he did not 'artificially inflate' the Wheel of Time because of any external pressures. He wrote this series the way he did because he loved it, and because he knew that we loved it.
And I think that's why he chose to have this novel completed. In the end, your good was more important to him than his own good. What grander summary could be made of a man's life than that?
This book is going to be beautiful. I promise you that.
No. It’s in my head.
What if you die or something?
You’re screwed [basically. Heh.]
The third prequel would tell the story of how Lan and Moraine reach the Two Rivers and find the three ta’veren.
Also at Turin Jordan said that he has serious health problems .... if I remember correctly he was involved in a traffic accident and had a narrow escape (and this is why he now walks with a cane).
In addition, our Jordan also fought in Vietnam.
Before starting the saga of Randland, as it is known to fans, he wrote a historical series called "The Fallon Chronicles" and serialized several "Conan the Barbarian" novels. There are things Jordan wants to write afterwards, too.
But "Wheel" comes first.
"I've been warned that if I died before I finished the books, they were going to desecrate my grave," he said with a laugh.
—Talked about some of his medals and how he got them.
—Again talked about people writing in his world and this time made another reference to "breaking something".
—Talked about some of his reference material he has made such as a listing of all of the Aes Sedai. Said that alone takes up an entire floppy disk.
—And the funniest thing of the night was when a friend of mine asked him about the *sniffs* RJ said that "a women can put more in a single sniff than a guy can in a 'Yo Mutha!'"
That was funny. RJ actually said 'Yo Mutha!'
Thank you for your letter. I am glad you like The Wheel of Time, and hope that you will enjoy the future volumes, too. I am currently at work on book eight, which does not yet have a title, and I am scheduled to deliver it to my publisher in the fall of 1997. Both my editor and my publisher feel that I have been working much too hard over the past ten years—especially the last six—and that I need to slow down if I am not to fall over.
Thanks again for writing.
With best wishes,
RJ: mls [<—this means Maria put it together... hehe!]
[something about the prequels and fanfiction]
Fan fiction has never really taken off in the Wheel of Time fandom. Partly the reason for that is because Robert Jordan did not like fanfic—he didn't like other people playing in his sandbox—and so when me and Jason became aware that he didn't like fanfic, we pretty much killed it on Dragonmount, and because we killed it on Dragonmount, that meant everybody else killed it too, because people pretty much follow our lead, so there's never really been a lot of fanfic in the Wheel of Time. There is some out there—if you look around you can find some like on fanfic.net—but it's never really taken off for whatever reason. And I think it's partly because we killed it very quickly, but I think it's also partly because a lot of what is special about the Wheel of Time is the unique voice of Robert Jordan, and for the most part other people writing in that universe, it's crap. Even if they're a really good writer, it's...[Brandon] is really the only person I like writing in the Wheel of Time universe other than Jim, so...I think that's another reason why it doesn't take off, because it's pretty obvious it's not Robert Jordan.
Right, the Wheel of Time is about Robert Jordan's voice in a lot of ways, and the reason we're all still reading this is because we like that voice. And there are books that are slower than other books, and those of us who just love his voice, love those books.
It doesn't matter, I really like Crossroads of Twilight. I'm sorry!
Yes, because that's what we're reading the books for. I mean, of course it's the characters also, but time with Jim and the characters is what these books are about, and as much as we like the epic battles and things, at their core it's Jim and the characters.
Yeah, and it's his prose, and it's his writing style, and just the way he presents everything. And so, fanfic can't capture that.
I think there's a real loyalty to him as an author as well when you find out, as a fan, that he doesn't like that kind of fanfiction, then you don't even feel inclined to do it.
He was very—I mean, if you guys read the interviews—it was only like the last minutes that he changed his mind on even having the series finished by someone else. For years, he was gonna...what was it, burn his hard drives, and things like that...
...and salt the earth, yeah...
Yeah. There was going to be no ending. It was only like the last month or two that he said, "No, go ahead and find somebody and have it finished." So, yeah.
We're all really glad that he said that.
Yeah, you almost didn't have this.
So, watch out for those kneecaps.
Okay. If my kneecaps float off mysteriously...
That is mysterious.
...and you see a shadow with the hat and a cane, and maybe a pipe... (laughter)
It's a fantasy War And Peace, a story not only of individuals but also of cultures clashing across a continent. It will take at least three more books to finish. I worry that someone will walk up to me and say, 'I want an end to it now or I'm going to bash your head in.' On the other hand, I've had people threaten to desecrate my grave if I die before I finish it!
But if the main thrust of the story's already mapped out, couldn't another author complete it from Jordan's notes?
If I die, my computer's hard drive will be reformatted four times. I defy anybody to pull anything off it after that, and I've made arrangements that anyone who tries to finish the series after my death will have their kneecaps removed.
That's an ironic attitude for an author who gained kudos for his additions to Robert E. Howard's Conan saga, surely?
If he could reach us, I'm sure Howard would strangle me, Andy Offutt and all the rest of us. But I don't want somebody messing around with my characters, putting their boots all over my world.
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. The major storylines will all be tied up, along with some of the secondary, and even some of the tertiary, but others will be left hanging. I'm doing that deliberately, because I believe it will give the feel of a world that's still out there alive and kicking, with things still going on. I've always hated reaching the end of a trilogy and finding all of the characters', all the country's, all the world's, problems are solved. It's this neat resolution of everything, and that never happens in real life.
I originally thought I was signing up for a 10 or 15K run, and somewhere along the line I found out it was a marathon. So yes, I would like to cross the finish line on this thing and get on to what's next. I'm not that old, and I've got a lot of writing left. There are two more short prequel novels to be done at some point, but aside from that, I have said I would never write again in this universe unless I get a really great idea—which would have to be an idea that would support two or three of what I call "outrigger" novels, not part of the main storyline. Well, I may have had one! But I'll have to set it aside for a year or two because I've already signed contracts for an unrelated trilogy called Infinity of Heaven, which I'm very excited about. I've been poking that idea around in my head for 10 or 12 years.
I've also thought about doing a book set during the Vietnam War, but Jim Rigney will probably never write the Vietnam book. If I did, it would be history now, and I decided a long time ago that Rigney was going to be or contemporary fiction, and my name for historical novels is Reagan O'Neill. Maybe Jim Rigney will never become a writer!
There have been some computer games and comics, and a movie based on The Eye of the World is still in the works (with contracts that allow me a lot of involvement), but nobody else is ever going to write Wheel of Time books. For after I die, I've purchased an insurance policy with a couple of guys who have a kneecap concession in the southeastern United States, and they have rights to expand this concession should it be desired. For a very small fee, they have guaranteed that they will crack the kneecaps of anybody who writes in my universe, and nail them to the floor!