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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Following military service, Jordan enrolled at The Citadel, earning a degree in physics in 1974. For a time, he toiled as a nuclear engineer for the Navy. He became a writer largely out of boredom with the works of authors he read during an extended hospital stay, recuperating from a severe knee injury.
His first book, Warriors of the Altaii, was fantasy. So was his dream of a publisher. A book contract signed by Jordan was rescinded, reputedly due to "excessive demands." Despite the setback, Jordan determined he would no longer work for anyone else, that he would henceforth write full time.
In a reversal of the path taken earlier by John Jakes, Jordan went from "generational sagas" to the fantastic. However, his first major commercial success came in 1980 with the historical novel The Fallon Blood. Eleven years later, Jordan has published works representative of many fields, including dance and theater criticism.
"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."
His first Conan novel he wrote because there was money offered. Having discovered that it was fun to write Conan, he wrote five more including the novelization of the second movie, and then spent a year convincing people that he was not going to write any more Conan...he was quite adamant on this point.
His first novel was accepted and then rejected, sold and then rights reverted to him...he says he will never publish it as it is not very good, but keeps it as it seems to be lucky for him.
He regards being taught to read at an early age and reading anything and everything he could get his hands on as being very important to his decision to write, and to what he writes and how he writes it...he writes Fantasy because it allows more straightforward discussion of good and evil than fiction set in the modern world.
(I got the impression that learning to read at age three is considered precocious in the USA...just another example of how far you colonials have fallen. :-) )
He encouraged young writers to write and send out things continuously not to be discouraged by rejections, and to change something only when three editors suggest it.
I also asked RJ what Tor thought about the length of his series in terms of the number of books in it.
RJ said that Tor has told him to write as many books as he wants/needs to, and that Tor has never asked him to "stretch" the series out into more (money-making) books. He also said that even if Tor pressured him, he wouldn't do it.
Jordan's Writing Process
Jordan spoke a bit and answered a few questions about his writing process. He said that he originally thought the series would be three to four books. When he was negotiating a contract with Tom Doherty, he told Tom that he didn't know how long the series would be, but that he did know the ending. Jordan says that writers seldom get contracts under those circumstances, but Tom signed him one because he like Jordan's writing. The contract was for six books.
After Jordan wrote the first book, he increased his estimate to four to five books for the series. After the second, he thought it would be 5-6, then 7 or more, etc. Now he does not give any estimate of the length of the series and is upset that the jacket of Lord of Chaos suggested that the series would end with eight books. (Update: In an open letter sent courtesy of Tor Books, dated 19 May 1996, Jordan said that the series will comprise at least ten books.)
Jordan says that the idea for WoT came to him about ten years before he began writing. "What would it feel like to be tapped on the shoulder and told, 'Hey, you're the savior of the world?'" He began writing The Eye of the World four years before it was published (and I say that it shows).
Jordan has lots of notes for the series. He began by writing approximately ten pages (of notes) of history about each of the countries in his story, more for the places he was going to use first. Right now his notes fill more pages than his manuscripts, he says.
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.")
The first work I wrote has never been published although it was bought and then rejected over a contract dispute by Dell within the space of two months. That was what convinced me I could write it. It was later sold to... Don Wollheim bought it as a fantasy novel. Later Jim Baen at Ace bought it as a science fiction novel unchanged from what it was before. And then Susan Allison came in and she didn't like it so I got it... got the rights reverted to me. It also resulted in me getting the Conan contracts and in me meeting my wife. So I decided this thing has major mojo going with it. Well it's also the fact that it glows in the dark. It'll never be published because I'm a better writer now than I was twenty odd years ago.
My first published novel, I had walked into a book store and I had been talking to the owner of the book store, the manager, the woman that managed it, about the fact that I wanted to write, that I was beginning to write. I talked to her about books and all sorts of things, just in the book shop, that was all. There was a kind of romance novel called a bodice-ripper by a woman named Mary Robbins, big displays up front. Bodice-ripper is a sort of softcore pornography for women set in historical settings. And the shop owner said, "Do you know she has made three million dollars on her first two books?" In those days three million dollars with two books was Stephen King territory. That was like the forty-five-million-dollar contracts you hear about today. This is the sort of thing made people go, "Oh God!" and made the front of Time magazine. And I said for that kind of money I'd write one of those things. Okay, throwaway line, rimshot, forget it. Except the next time I came into the store the woman said, "You know a woman came in here and she's come to Charleston to set up a major publishing house, set up a publishing house, and she only wants to publish lead titles." That's the big book that the publishing house puts out every month, the one they really push. And that's all she's going to publish. She'd run out of business cards, she didn't have any business cards but here, she wrote her name in pencil on this lined three by five index card. I thought, right, she's come to Charleston to set up a major publishing house? No, no, no, no. That's like going to Death Valley to set up a ski camp. And she's only going to publish leads, that's like saying you're only going to publish best sellers, as it seemed to me, as it seemed to me then. But she managed to do it and no business card. Three by five index card, lined, penciled in. Right. Okay. I stuck it in my pocket to be polite and I went away. A week or so later I found it in my office in the drawer where I kept my pipe and tobacco as I was loading my pipe. Shows how long ago it was. I thought all right, I've got ten minutes I'll give her a call. So I gave her a call and found out that she had been editor or director of Ace Books and had just celebrated being promoted to vice president by resigning. And suddenly with that bit of experience behind her I'd realized she didn't sound so much like a nut anymore. She said, "I understand you're writing a bodice-ripper," and not waiting to lose a thread I said, "Yeah, well it's already been shown." She said, "Well, okay. I understand that, I understand that. Well why don't you come over and read me it and talk to me about it. Show me something, talk to me."
So I made up an outline driving to her house. I talked to the woman in the bookstore about these books enough that I knew the basic format. Heroine loses her virginity in the first chapter. It is a circumstance that is not rape on technicality. That is, he, the guy has arranged for a tavern maid downstairs to come upstairs and snuggle into his bed. And Heroine for some phony boloney reason has decided to sneak into his room to try to steal something at the same time. And she tries to get him drunk so he... you know, it gets very complicated. Anyway on technicality he's not guilty but anyway, she then goes on to have a lot of sexual adventures in North Africa with Sheiks and Sultans, in China with the Mandarins, Bedouin raiders... the court of Napoleon and the court of Medici... And then at the end of it she's in great danger, she's rescued by this guy that turns out to be the guy who done her virginity in the first place and they get married. And everything is thus okay because she married the guy that took her virginity. All right, hooo, yeah. I tried writing this thing for a brief moment, I really did. And I couldn't hack it man. I got the plot right, I got the sex right but I read some of the books and they quivered. They were hysterical in the constant sense, that is every line quivered with emotion. And I couldn't quiver. I tried.
About a year after that she called me up. I quit my job as an engineer and she said, "I'd like to see anything you've written." And being a professional I tried to talk her out of it. Because I knew the things I had written were not what she wanted to publish. She said, "Anything you have written, I want to see it." I took it to her, the book... the first novel I had ever written and when I went to pick it up from her later I got into a discussion about history. The forty-five in England, the American Revolution, the roles of the Scots and the Irish in the American Revolution particularly in the south. The publisher heard this and after the other woman had gone away, she gave me back a manuscript, she said, "You write a book and we'll publish this, but you can write. And what I want you to do is give the outline of a historical saga, a generational saga." And I did. That became The Fallon Blood. And the woman's name was Harriet McDougal and we started dating while we were touring for this book after she published it. I mean we toured for the book and she would give me another contract because we weren't quite sure how it was going to sell. And, ahh, I started missing her. I started coming back, hanging around and asking her out and whatnot. And eventually I asked her to marry me. Then I got really nervous because I thought, 'Hang on...I just asked a woman to marry me, and she is my source of income!' So I very hurriedly sold the book somewhere else so she would not be my sole source of income. That's how my first novel got published and that's how I met my wife and that's only about ten minutes as much as you wanted to know.
An older gentlemen asked him how he met Tom Doherty at Tor. With a relatively lengthy reply, Jordan stated that he published his first book, "a historical novel called The Fallon Blood," with Popham Press. The "Popham" comes from his chief publisher at the time, Harriet Popham McDougal. Soon, he was dating Harriet, and was eventually married. Harriet through some fashion sold her publishing business to Tom Doherty, bringing along her new author husband who had sold some half-million copies in the mass market with The Fallon Blood. Jordan further commented that just about everything he wanted to write had appealed to Tom, and thus Tor has since bought most of Jordan's novels for publication.
Oh yes. She was the founding editorial director of Tom Doherty associates, which publishes TOR books. Before that she had been promoted to Vice President, and celebrated that by resigning to set up her own imprint which was distributed by Grosset and Dunlap. My first novel to be published was published by her imprint.
When that book was done I began to miss her...so we began dating.
Then I asked her to marry me...but I very got Neanderthal and got cold feet. She was my publisher and my editor and how could I marry her? So I hurriedly sold some things elsewhere and then it was all right. She's still my editor. She's cut back now, and I'm the only author she edits. We used to spend a week a month in New York so she could do editorial work, and she decided she didn't want to do that anymore but she still edited people. Then a couple of years ago she cut that because of the tours for my books, and I want her to come with me, 'cause I'd go stone crazy spending a month on the road alone in hotels every night.
Yes. they have to be able to do express laundry and have 24-hour room service because I often don't get to eat until I get back to the hotel at one in the morning and I wanted to be able to get my favorite comfort food, Spaghetti Bolognese, which is really just spaghetti with a very simple tomato meat sauce.
Anyway, she gave up her last writers, she was editing Father Andrew Greeley and Mike and Cathy Greer, and I'd started to sell books in translation and my European publishers started asking me to come to do tours in Sweden and Norway and Holland and Russia and Great Britain. So she decided it wouldn't be fair to the authors to go incommunicado on them for a month at a time.
Yes, Regan O'Neal is my name for Historical Fiction. The first thing I ever wrote was Fantasy, at least I thought it was. It will never be published now because I'm a better writer now. I wrote this thing and I sent it to DAW books because I heard that DAW published first novels. So I sent it to DAW and got back a letter from Donald Wolheim that was exceedingly laudatory, and obviously he had written it at home and typed it himself because he had scratched out words and made changes in pen and his signature was cramped...and he made me an offer.
And I asked for some changes in the contract. Nothing very big. I asked for some changes in subsidiary rights that I never expected to be exercised because I wanted to establish that I wasn't going to accept just anything that was offered. But I didn't know enough about the industry to know if I was being offered a minuscule advance or a fairly good advance.
Yes. And I found out that he didn't like beginning writers to ask for changes. He thought that beginning writers should accept what was offered. So the result of my asking for the changes was that I got a letter back saying, "Dear Sir, in view of your contract demands we are withdrawing our offer. Sincerely, Donald A. Wolheim."
I looked at the two letters and I didn't know why I'd gotten the second, as I hadn't demanded anything. It was actually a very diffident letter, and I had ended by saying, "If any of these requests seem out of line, please let me know." Thus throwing away everything, but I knew that I had no real knowledge of publishing.
So, I decided to ignore the second letter because the first letter said; you can write.
That novel that I thought of as a Fantasy was later bought by Jim Baen while he was at Ace as a Science Fiction novel. You may know that Jim doesn't think very highly of fantasy, so he bought it as SF while DAW had bought it as Fantasy. Then Susan Allison came in to replace him when he went to TOR and she didn't like it, so I got the rights back and it's sat on the shelf all this time.
Its title was Warriors of the Altaii, and you will never see it, or know anything about it. I have not destroyed the manuscript, because it has powerful juju...but in my will I have provisions to have that manuscript burned. But until then I'm afraid to get rid of the juju that resides in it.
In a way that novel led to me meeting my wife, and it led to me getting my first novel published. Because she knew about that manuscript, when Tom Doherty got the rights to do the Conan novels, he needed the first one very fast so that it would come out the same time the movie came out. And he knew that I had once written a 98,000 word novel in 13 days.
So he thought I could write something fast, and he was right, and I liked it. It was fun writing something completely over the top, full of purple prose, and in a weak moment I agreed to do five more and the novelization of the second Conan movie.
I've decided that those things were very good discipline for me. I had to work with a character and a world that had already been created and yet find a way to say something new about the character and the world. That was a very good exercise.
For Brent Ross, getting an agent isn't expensive. An agent makes his or her money from taking a commission on what your work is sold for and earns. Agents who want reading fees and the like are to be distrusted, in my book. You really need an agent, though, if you want to sell your work, short fiction aside. I don't know of a major publishing house that will even look at unagented submissions any more.
The next person also asked about the cover art, and he gave a shorter version of the first answer.
Some one asked about the first printing hardbacks of The Eye of the World and how to identify them. He went on to say that the rumor that some of the early trade paperbacks were re-bound as hardbacks was an urban legend. He said that he checked.
Another question followed about the number of books. Same answer.
He said that he writes about 8 hours a day 6 days a week when he is not on tour. He said something about when he was fishing, unless he was fly-fishing or was on the boat really having to work at it, he felt like he should be home writing.
He then answered a question about living in Charleston; about how it was his favorite place to live out of the half dozen or so cities he felt that he would like to live in.
He said that for this book it took two months from the time he handed in the final manuscript until he went on tour.
...I gotta be honest, the cover for The Eye of the World was what got me into the books in the first place.
What really sucks is that I found out that the larger than normal paperback I have been rereading all this time was the first issue for The Eye of the World. I thought there was a hardcover version. So all this time I have been beating the crap out of a rare first edition. Boy do I feel special.... kinda like the time I found out my sister traded all my first run Uncanny X-Mens for my cousin's ... er "collection" of Archie comics.... kinda like the time... gah...
Been lurking since The Beginning. Although I haven't had the time or the mental capacity/creativity, most days, to contribute in any significant fashion. Although hopefully I can find some more time in the future to do more than Lurk....
However, to all the new posters, regulars and alumni—I'm appreciative of the hours and hours of entertainment you've provided; Kudos to all!
Just a heads up to Sub, that the first printing of the oversize paperback isn't overly valuable (50-150 $) pending condition, and they show up on ebay on a regular basis—but still something worth looking after carefully.
If I've managed this properly—my avatar will have a picture of what I believe is the first bound version of The Eye of the World that I rescued from ebay a couple of years ago (maybe tnh can/will comment). Read the red fine print, if/when you can ... it's really cool.
Edited: for coherency. Deleted a sentence as my avatar showed up as planned. And add—you can't see it well in the picture/avatar, but there is printing along the top of book that reads "Harriet's marked up copy"—no trolling. This book contains some hand written edits by Mrs. Jordan (and someone else whom I have yet to identify although there is a fairly obvious choice), and includes a 3-page letter to tnh from Mrs. Jordan. As I understand it, the advance reading copy was created from this version, as were the final hardcover (yes Sub there was a limited hardcover printing) and oversize softcover both originally printed in February 1990.
How the devil did that production copy wind up on eBay? With, for all love, my correspondence with Harriet still tucked inside? (Is that the letter where we were going back and forth about Nancy Weisenfeld's copyedit, and Jim Rigney's preferred style of ellipses? It's been a long time.)
Did the person who sold it say anything about it?
I'd love to see large high-resolution photos of all those materials, including samples of the interior markup, and all three pages of the letter. I can recognize the handwriting of most of the people that could have marked up the pages, so there's a good chance that I can either identify the person or rule out some possibilities.
I'd very much prefer that you mail me pictures of the letter, rather than posting them somewhere. My email address is on the front page of my weblog, Making Light.
What you have there isn't the first bound edition. It's either a bound galley or a bound manuscript copy—I should remember which, but I don't. Tom Doherty did so much fiddling with the marketing and format of that book that it spent close to a year in production, rather than the normal nine months, and at times drove our department to distraction.
If it's typeset, it's a bound galley. If it's reproduced from the manuscript pages, it's a bound manuscript. Both can be referred to as "advance copies."
Anyway, the advance copies with the plain light-blue cover were superseded by the massive printing of ARCs with the four-color Darryl Sweet cover. An ARC (Advance Reading Copy) is basically a bound galley with a four-color cover that's usually an early version of the cover that will appear on the book. The Tor booth at the ABA that year had so many copies of it that they could have built Vauban-style fortifications out of them. Printing such a large and lavish ARC in such quantities was a gamble for Tor, which back then was a smaller and poorer company.
Is the thing you're referring to as "the first printing of the oversize paperback" the ARC? Check and see whether it has a price printed anywhere on the cover. If not, it's an ARC. IIRC, the ARC also featured the interim state of the cover in which the author of one of the cover quotes was erroneously identified as "Gordon R. R. Dickson."
Thanks for the info, greatly appreciated!
I will email pictures in the next 24 hours along with what history I know or have deduced. I agree with you that the letter shouldn't be made public without necessary approvals. The "discussion" you mentioned sounds...interesting...but the contents of this letter are more mundane and simply include info on book formatting, layout and listing of the chapter icons (I've scanned a copy of it too).
While not clear in my avatar, the book looks grey in real life (although if there was a light blue one, that would be interesting as well). I acquired a second one, without markups, that is identical to that pictured, and it is grey as well.
I know the ARC well, as at one point I had five of the things from various bundled purchases I made (the exterior cover of the ARC is the same artwork that is now found on the inside flap, and the inside cover of the ARC is the same artwork that now appears on the current cover). I just picked up one of the ARCs and on the back has a quote attributed to George R Dickson—is that what you were referring to? (Been so long since I'd picked it up that I'd completely forgot that I had the matching bookmark, and postcard inside, a pleasant surprise). I've since donated one to Jason Denzel and one to Jennifer Liang, for helping make a waking nightmare of a trip to the Gathering Storm signing in Charleston end on an awesome note.
In referring to the "oversize paperback"—it is a softcover book with the dimensions of approximately 6" x 9" (matching the size of the arc as well as the other proofs/galleys/bound manuscripts that I have). On this version, the exterior artwork and inside flap match what is currently on shelves everywhere. There are prices (both Canadian and US, etc) and ISBN # listing.
From your perspective—is there a difference between a galley, bound manuscript, or proof? Just curious, as I have various versions of almost all those written by RJ (have never seen a proof/galley/manuscript for Crown of Swords despite hours and hours of searching).
Okay, this is funny. I've been able to confirm that what Kafmerchant has is a one-of-a-kind artifact from the production of the first edition of The Eye of the World. The line written in red ink at the top edge of the cover that says "Harriet's marked-up copy" is in my handwriting.
Kafmerchant@323—I admit your posts were glazing my eyes over as I'm not much of a collector, being broke all the time and whatnot. But that is an amazing bit of info about The Shadow Rising. I've always found the approach to be rather odd in comparison to the rest of the series. Not only is there no prologue, but the wind hangs around for quite a bit, and what he did at the beginning of Chapter 9 is pretty unique too. I'm going to put this whole conversation in the interview database, just for that tidbit. If you'd like to post reviews of each book one day, I would put them all in there. It's designed to be a database of all non-canon canon, so to speak, which is of course usually in the form of interviews, hence the name. But there are exceptions.
There are so many small but interesting things in my WoT collection that I'd really like to share with anyone who is interested (including books of course, but also have promo literature, and marketing materials such as posters, bookmarks, WoT "postcards" etc . The risk is that I'm seen as just showing off when my intent is far from it.
An example of promo literature is from a letter dated 15 Aug 1990 included with the Great Hunt galley, from Eleanor Lang (Tor publicist) that states that The Eye of the World "...was the first volume in The Wheel of Time, a six part series to be published by Tor Books." The print run for The Great Hunt is stated as 200,000 copies in this letter.
Just to clarify that the The Shadow Rising prologue in the advance uncorrected proof was called, "Seeds of Shadow" and started approximately halfway down the page and ended on the next page with just a single paragraph on that second page. The next (first) chapter was simply called "Seeds".
While searching for something tonight I've found some items that may be of interest to you—I assume you have copies of the audio of the Budapest interviews? Do you have the 2003 Toronto audio file? Also found a word file with a list of interviews starting with Starlog in 1991, followed by letters by Carolyn Fusinato and ending with blog posts/interviews somewhere in 2006 with lots in between (the word file is 2M in size)? I may also have a couple of old floppies, somewhere, with various old interviews and other miscellaneous files from the mid-late 90s although not sure if I can find anything that can read it...or if my memory of what may actually be on them is correct.
I'll keep the offer to post additional content in mind for the future.
I also found what I was looking for—a list, in excel, of chapter revision numbers and titles from the Path of Daggers manuscript—do you want this? And if so, where should I send it (gmail account)?
When you heard about Jim from the bookshop owner, what was it about him that made you want to leave your contact information for him on an index card?
The bookshop owner said he was working on a bodice-ripper, that's what.
Why the bodice-ripper though?
Well, they were huge at the time. And he apparently had said that to her, but he wasn't. (laughter) He just thought, "Oh gosh, Kathleen Woodiwiss got a million dollar bonus; I think I'll try one of those." That's what was going on in his head, and he said, "Yeah, I'm working on one of those," is what came out of his mouth! (laughter)
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.
My name is Sarah Wilby, and I'm from here. Actually, I started going to this high school about the time the books came out. So I think this is probably the coolest event that has ever happened in this entire building, what's happening tonight. [laughter]
My question is—for Harriet—you said Robert Jordan had an engineering job with the government before he started writing books. How heavily did you try to dissuade him from giving that up to write this...this crazy fantasy stuff, because I remember what fantasy books were like at the time these started coming out, and I mean, this changed everything—there was nothing at this level—so he was doing something very, very different.
I didn't know him when he quit to start writing. I met him, I guess a year or possibly two after he had stopped, and gave him the second contract he had been offered. The first was a contract given to him by DAW books, the little skinny ones with the yellow spine? And then the contract came with this nice, long letter from Donald Wollheim, the publisher. And he wrote back—he'd been taking a course in Business Law at the College of Charleston—and said, "Oh, I'm so glad to have your offer, but could I have a little more than five percent of the movie rights?" [laughter] Or something like that. And Wollheim wrote back a one-line letter: "In view of your contract attitude, I withdraw my offer." [laughter] But he was an optimist, and at that, rather madly, and chose to remember that on his first submission he'd gotten an offer, rather than "the son-of-a-gun withdrew the offer, and I will therefore be discouraged."
So I gave him what was a contract for his first published book, which was a historical novel called The Fallon Blood. And then, Doherty wanted somebody to write a Conan novel, after three Fallons, and distribution was drying up on the third book. And I said, well, because of this Wollheim rejection, I knew that Jim could write a Conan, and he said, "I don't want to do that." And three weeks later, I hadn't thought of anybody else, and I said [with pout] "Please!" With the lip...and he said, "Don't wiggle that thing at me, Harriet!" [laughter] So he did, and he liked it so much he did seven.
And so...I mean it was long after his quitting his job that this began, and I had nothing to do with that. [laughter] Except that, in the middle of all this, it looked as if my imprint—which had published his first thing and all—was going to go belly-up, and I was in the yard pulling wild onions, which is what I do in moments of insane stress, cause you never get rid of wild onions—it's impossible—and I was out there pulling these things up, saying "I can't go back to New York; I can't get a job; I'm in my f—" I guess I was forty. Anyway, "I'm forty; I'm too old!" You can't climb the corporate ladder after that. And he said, "Harriet, I can't go back to being an engineer for the Navy now that I've been writing Conan the Barbarian. Do you think they'll let me anywhere near their nuclear subs?" [laughter] And I looked up at him, and I laughed, and I said, "I guess not; we're both doomed!" [laughter]
Thank you very much, all of you.
Well, I'll never forget when my husband handed to me the first section of The Eye of the World—it was about a third of the book—and it knocked me off my perch. And I'll tell you, I called Tom Doherty, and said, "Tom, you'll have to read this one," and he said, "Why?" [laughter] When he founded Tor, he said he wanted a company where he could always read everything that he published, and Jim said, "It's not going to be long before he said, 'I want to read all the "read" books that I publish.' " And he had been—at that point, Robert Jordan had been writing Conan the Barbarian, which were not significant record-breaking novels. They were very good, but they were what we call midlist. [?] I said because either after—I've forgotten what it was; seven years of marriage?—"Either after seven years of marriage, I have fallen into the 'wife trap' and can't tell whether it's good or not, just cause I've married Jordan—and either that, or this thing is wonderful. That's why."
And so, he did read it, and I started—he was my working [?] publish it, but he did support the book. And as it went on, he was giving it to me in [?], and at one point I said to him, "Now, when we get to Tar Valon...." He said, "We don't get there in this book." [laughter] I said, "Okay." And then, when they go to Rhuidean—that surpassed the beginning....[?]....just absolutely gorgeous, gorgeous writing. So that was high. And in one of the books—and I've honestly forgotten which one it was—I said, "Honey, this is a boring section. You've got talking heads, talking heads, talking heads. Can't something happen?" So somebody gets killed. [laughter]
Harriet has told this story before here.
And you know, Tom once told me—this is the guy who founded Tor, Tom Doherty, and it was his company all through the 80s—he once told me he sold the company in order to get the capital after reading The Eye of the World, that he thought, "I need money to promote this book, to make it a best seller." And that was one of the main things, he said, that convinced him to sell the company.
I never knew that. That's a hell of a story. Anyway, he did do a splendid job in publishing it. There used to be something called the American Booksellers' Association, and there was a huge convention in the spring. He had gone to Dallas to hand out previews to booksellers, which was common in those days, but what was not common in those days is that he had done a double, full-color cover on the book. Nobody did that—they had those gray covers, with plain type—and that startled all of them. It just really did; he just did what he does better than anybody else, and he did it with The Eye of the World. He was just a wonderful publisher all through the series.
I've got one—another technical question. You said when you were at the signing you were quite angry at your English publishers over your books because they published your last book in December.
They released it way ahead of schedule. They promised me not to do that.
Did it take some steps in the direction to punish them for that?
Well, they will not be able to do it again.
Because frankly, I have to say that I like their books better.
Well, I'm sorry to hear that.
Because they publish better [ inaudible ]. The books are better, the cover doesn’t come off, and so on.
There are some serious business problems with that.
Yes, I understand.
One is the copyright.
They put my copyright in danger. I don't hold still for that. They put my copyright in danger. So, they're still my English publisher; I will deliver the books to them as contracted. And I will deliver the books to them exactly as contracted. But it's not going to happen again; they're not going to release the books again. One thing they have promised me that they will put a hold on—their first class hold, which I thought they had been doing before, which is what they do in the United States—which means that if a bookstore puts the books up on sale early, there are sanctions against that bookstore.
It's only a matter of a few weeks, but it's important to the sales of the book pretty internationally. If the book makes number one in the United States, and also if it makes number one in London; that matters. And by breaking the date, they put his opening at number one in both countries in at risk.
In danger. They put it at risk.
And there was no reason to do that.
Because people from the States could have bought it, and perhaps enough.
And they did.
And some people did—they found out about it and bought it. But they put the making of that number one opening, which from a purely commercial point of view, is important. If you open at number one, if you're at number one, you get publicity, you get a lot of things. You get discounts—stores sell your book at a discount. You don't get any less of a royalty, but they put a deep discount on your book, which they make a lesser discount if it's further down in the top ten. And there are more people who will buy the book at the deeper discount than will buy it at the lesser discount. So these things are important. This is my rice bowl, and they threw rocks at my rice bowl.
Well, they did write a very apologetic letter.
Yes, they did.
Because they read the internet, too. [laughs] And I don't think it will happen again.
No, I don't think it will happen again.
And also, my dear husband had been kind of begging Tor Books to send the discs to England so that they could make the same date.
So that they could publish at the same time.
And Tor really didn't want to do this.
They didn't, but I kept saying "please, please".
He was doing them a favor to make them able to do this.
I was doing them a favor to get them to do that so they could release the books on the same day.
Because see, even if I deliver the manuscript to New York, and at the same time I send the manuscript by courier to London, New York can get under way faster and have books ready to go faster than London can. So what I would do would be deliver the manuscript to New York, and New York would prepare everything ready to send to the printer on disc. And I would beg a copy of that disc from New York to send to England so they could hit the presses within 24 hours of the Americans doing this.
On the same date. And they hurt Tor doing this. So that is also personally embarrassing.
It was very embarrassing to me.
Yes, we'd asked one company for a favor.
Because I'd asked my American publisher to do this favor for me—for a number of years I had done it, to do it for the English.
And the reason for that is once we turn the book in, I have done my editing but they then have a copy editor who goes through for commas and the little stuff, and that isn't on our discs, and it should be that the books are identical. So it was a mess. It was not happy.
No, no . . . but I think it's okay now.
But I really think it will be okay now. And it's only a matter of about two weeks, but it made a big difference.
Honey, yes. And I don't think it's going to happen again.