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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When Robert Jordan's parents couldn't find a babysitter, they would utilize the services of his redoubtable older brother, who read to his four-year-old sibling from a rich varied repertoire of Mark Twain, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and the like.
The common thread was a zestful, sometimes wry imagination. And Jordan was an exceedingly quick study.
"On the one hand, I'm flattered. On the other, I would have to say it's overplayed. On the third hand, Tolkien encompassed so much in The Lord of the Rings and other books that he did for fantasy what Beethoven did for music.
"For a long time, it was believed that no one did anything that did not build on Beethoven. For his part, Tolkien did provide a foundation while himself building on an existing tradition. Although it's difficult now to forge a singular place in this foundation, people like Stephen R. Donaldson are doing it. I hope I am as well."
Crafting his stories in a highly visual style, Jordan joins a celebrated list of contemporary fantasists and science-fantasy authors composed of such names as Joan Vinge, Fred Saberhagen, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne Rice, Roger Zelazny and Donaldson.
But Jordan sees fantasy splitting into altogether too many lines to assay broad trends.
In the realm of fantasy writing, Jordan has been less influenced than simply entertained by such works as Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series and the horror writing of Stephen King.
He never reads fantasy when he is in the midst of writing it.
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. :-) )
RJ replied that they probably thought I was reading soft porn, and that some of those cheesy romance novels I was talking about are some of the best soft porn he knows of. Later someone asked to have his picture taken with RJ and he replied, "What kind of picture are we talking about? I'll only do it if I get to keep my clothes on." Oh, and RJ said that the woman on the cover of Lord of Chaos is an Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah, but he doesn't know which Aes Sedai because it was changed a number of times.
He mentioned Hyperion... he loved the book until he read the ending. "There was no ending, no resolution." At that point, he threw the book across the room and never got around to reading Hyperion II.
Authors he recommended were Guy Gavriel Kay, CS Friedman and Ray Feist in the fantasy genre. Non-fantasy he recommended his major inspirator: Mark Twain. He wouldn't give any non-recommended authors.
He said he reads about 300-400 books per year, which is a drop-off from what he normally read due to the high workload from the WoT books.
Actually, all that really helped me with is that I know what it's like to have somebody trying to kill you. I know what it's like to have a lot of people trying to kill you. And I also know what's it like to kill somebody. These things come through, so I've been told by people who are veterans of whether Vietnam, or of Korea, or combat anywhere—Desert Storm; I had a lot of fan letters from guys who were there.
As far as the Machiavellian part, as I said I grew up in a family of Byzantine complexity, in a city where there has always been a great deal of Byzantine plotting. The court of Byzantium never had anything on Charleston for either plotting or blood feuds. It came as mother's milk to me.
The only time I re-read is to check on something when I have to make sure of exactly what I said in a certain circumstance about a certain character or incident.
As far as the people I read, there are far too many to list...Tad Williams, Barry Hughhart, Ray Feist, it could be a very long list, but we'd be here quite a time listing authors.
The descriptions come from years of reading history, sociology, cultural anthropology, almost anything I can put my hands on in any and every subject that caught my eye. Including religion and mythology, of course, necessities for a fantasy writer, though I went at them first simply because I wanted to. It all tumbles together in my head, and out comes what I write. I don't try to copy cultures or times, only to make cultures that are believable. I can't explain it any better than that.
I don't base characters on real people. With one exception, at least. Every major female character and some of the minor have at least a touch of my wife, Harriet. I won't tell her which bits in which women, though. After all, what if she didn't like it? She knows where I sleep.
It seems Jordan learned to read by having his father read to him constantly (when he was being read to, he wasn't messing around with expensive "toys" that broke easily). They started out with children's books, until Dad found out that it didn't matter whether Jordan really understood or not, and started reading books that Dad wanted to read instead. This went on for a while, until the night Dad put a book away before it was finished, so Jordan grabbed it and struggled through it on his own, figuring out what he didn't understand through context. (The Maltese Falcon was mentioned, but I don't recall how, other than as one of the books that he liked.)
When Jordan was six, he got a library card—like "the keys to the city". The librarians didn't want to let him out of the kids section, so he learned tricks. If you shelved books in the reading room, they would stay there, so you could pick them up again later, whether they belonged there or not. And kids could go to the reference section. "I discovered the encyclopedia."
The library at the time was in a mansion—the "Miskelle house", I think. He spelled it for me (without being asked; by that time there had been more than one comment about the lunatic scribbling notes on everything), but my notes were rather cramped by that time.
"Reading is like breathing. If you take it away, first I become antsy, then violent."
I'm fairly sure he's done this before, but he said Aginor and Balthamel are Aran'gar and Osan'gar, and he also said that Terry Goodkind actually uses WOT as inspiration, instead of going to a historical source. He sounded serious.
Finally, he also recommended several authors, but said that the guy who wrote Cryptonomicon was really good.
What inspired you to write?
I decided that I would write one day when I was five. I had finished From the Earth to the Moon, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and I stood them up on a table and sat staring at them with my chin on my knees—I was rather more limber, back then!—and decided that one day I would make stories like that. But by age seven or eight, it seemed to me that writers who made a living from writing all lived in Cuba or Italy or France, and at that age, I wasn’t sure about that big a move. I followed my second love, science and math, got my degree in physics and mathematics, and became an engineer. I didn’t try writing at fifteen or twenty, because I didn’t think I had enough experience; I had nothing to say. At thirty, I was injured, spent a month in the hospital, nearly died, and took four months to recuperate enough to return to my office. I decided it was time to put up or shut up about writing one day, and the rest followed.
Have any writers influenced you?
Yes, I think so. I believe that the major influences on my writing are Jane Austen, John D. MacDonald, Mark Twain, Louis L'Amour and Charles Dickens.
Do you read fantasy yourself: and are you aware of the other fantasy writers out there?
Oh, Lord. Almost anything. Half the books I read are nonfiction and it can be about anything under the sun. I'm just finishing up a book called Strange Victory, which is about the German defeat of France in 1940. What's fascinating about that is why it happened, because as the author points out, any time computers are allowed to run that scenario—the German invasion, the French defense—the French always win. The French had more tanks and the tanks were just as good. They had more men and the men were just as well trained. They had as many airplanes. Their airplanes were as good.
But what happened was, the French did a couple of things that were very wrong. One, they had a high dependence on advanced technology and the arrogance, if you will, that comes from that, that says that technology will win for us.
They relied on that, and the second thing that happened was that because they had suffered tremendous casualties in World War I, they were very reluctant to suffer casualties again. The politicians were and the country was. And the third thing was that because of the reluctance to suffer casualties, they made all of the decisions be reviewed in Paris. So they had a slow decision-making cycle. If you put those together, does it give you an image of anybody else in the world right now, maybe?
Anyway, the next book up is called The Code Book, and it's about development of codes and ciphers throughout history. As I said, I read about anything and everything... Whatever catches my eye.
Oh, I read everything, myself. At the moment I read Stephen King's Dreamcatcher. I've read about half of it this afternoon and I'll catch the other half of it tonight when we get back to Amsterdam. I ah... I read anything and everything. If you're talking about in the field... I would suggest people try err, John M. Ford, who's just had another one come out the last time recently... And it's very good. He's a winner of the world fantasy award. Twice. Once for his fantasy novel Dragon Waiting, and once for short fiction, which he won with a long poem, he made them change the rules, so that he could enter poetry and be nominated for short fiction category. He is a stone-cold good writer. Uhm, beyond that... uhm, lots of people, uhm... let's see now.. uhm, I must start blowing names... uhm, Ah, the guy who wrote Mythago Wood... [I blinked at that; very strange fantasy] Err, Holdstock. Robert Holdstock, err Tim Powers, uhm, C.S. Friedman, J.V. Jones, there are a lot of good writers.
But I read everything, I read mysteries and western and history. Err, I don't read as much as I used to. I'm not certain I'm still averaging over one a day [damn, just met my match... I haven't been averaging one a day since I finished high school.] About half fiction, and half non-fiction.
As I approached Jordan I heard him telling that he'd already been in the Netherlands for a couple of days, and that after the next weekend he would still stay around for four or five days, sightseeing.
Getting my books signed, I gave him the 400 pages female Dragon debate, telling him that this was the debate he'd just ended (I mentioned how long it had been going on, just after he'd answered the female Dragon question), asking if he could perhaps be willing to take a look at it sometime. He said that he'd do that, but that he didn't know how much time he'd have, since he had to read something that didn't have to do with his own work before going to bed:
When he writes he prefers not to read any fantasy as it distracts him; he starts editing other people's work. When he reads fantasy he likes books by: J.V. Jones, Robert Holdstock, Terry Pratchett, etc.
Before he started writing The Wheel of Time series he has written Conan nooks, a Romance novel, a Western novel and even ballet reviews (and much, much more...). One of the questions asked by the public was why he often repeats a lot of stuff in a very detailed way. Jordan said, "I hate minimalism. It is cheap. I write very cinematically. I want to paint a picture and when characters are involved I want to be sure the reader knows who it is."
The standard 'Harriet saying you've been writing Padan Fain again, haven't you?' anecdote came along. [Now I remember that the character he mentioned actually writing was Semirhage.]
He again mentioned the list of writers: Holdstock, Powers, Ford, Friedman, Jones.
He likes George R.R. Martin's books, gave him a quote for his first book.
How has writing such a successful series changed your life? As a result of that success, how has your life changed the story and your writing?
I have to steal an answer from Stephen King, here. I read it in an interview with him, and his answer seemed so obvious, so right, that I said, "But, of course!" The biggest change in my life, and the best thing about having a successful series, is that now I can buy any book I want. I don't have to wait for the paperback or haunt the remainder tables or plow through the second-hand bookstores. I can just buy it. Being able to travel is great, especially when there is fishing to go with it, but being able to buy the books is bloody neat!
As for my life changing the story: no, the story is still the story I set out to write God help me! more than fifteen years ago. My writing, of course, as distinct from the story, almost certainly has been changed by my life. No writer can be so isolated from life that what he lives through has no effect on his writing. Or if he can isolate himself, either his writing isn't worth reading or he himself is nuttier than a fruitcake! But I can't tell you how it has changed, except that I hope it has gotten better. After all this time, I would hope to God I've gotten at least a little better at it.
One of the things that sets you apart from many other fantasy authors is your command of plot. Your stories are intricate and full of hidden puzzles. How did you learn to write like that?
I don't know. I read. I never took a course in writing of any sort. The only literature courses I ever took in college were required courses, since my degrees were in physics and mathematics. I never wrote anything that wasn't required until I was 30. I knew that I wanted to write one day. I knew that from the age of 5. But that was someday, after I had a stable career. And then 30 came, and I sat down and started writing. Where any of it came from, I don't know. At that point, from 30 years of reading everything I could get my hands on.
What kind of books do you like to read while working?
If something doesn't appeal to me, it goes away. If it doesn't turn out to be as good as I thought it was, it goes away. I don't have time to read books through when they no longer measure up. But everything... mysteries, Westerns, science fiction, nonfiction of all sorts. I've been recommending Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel to everyone, and I'm reading a James Patterson mystery right now, and getting ready to read Patrick O'Brian's The Hundred Days... Hornblower meets Jane Austen.
Sometimes I'll just dig out one of the old Jane Austen or Charles Dickens books and read that, because I love those books. Or John D. MacDonald. My favorite authors are Robert Heinlein, John D. MacDonald, Louis L'Amour, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain. These are the people I can pick up and read any time. And you have to throw Montaigne in there as well, but essays are a different sort of thing.
And the circus happened to have a lot of acts that... (were) from Asia. I don't know why they seemed to have such a disproportionate number of acts from Asia. They were much different than most European circus acts and American circus acts, which are very similar to European circus acts. And when I went to my desk the next morning, I realized I knew exactly how Elayne and Nynaeve were going to travel. With Valan Luca's show.
I have read for close on to fifty years, everything I could get my hands on. Various bits and pieces have been stuck in my head. And I use them. And sometimes...and if I see anything that's interesting, and a lot of things interest me, cultural anthropology, development of cities, how a windmill works, how does a waterwheel work? these things interest me, as much as how a modern day skyscraper is built, or how do you go about building a base on the moon?, or how do you go about building an industrial facility in an L5-point? Sometimes I do research and then... Well, I know nothing about blacksmithing really...[followed by that story you've heard before] No matter what you know, if you're an expert blacksmith, I want you to read right past that blacksmith scene, and believe it. And of course very few people will be expert blacksmiths, but that's fine. Because no matter what the scene is, I want you to believe it. No matter what your own knowledge is.
Mr. Jordan stated that the first book he ever read was White Fang, at age four. When given his library card at five, he joked that when the librarian introduced him to the children's section asking him if he would like to have The Velveteen Rabbit read to him, he replied, "What, are you kidding?"... promptly being labeled a smart-aleck.
He found it very difficult to get access to adult reading, and would have to sneak out of the children's section, snag books, and bring them back to the children's section to hide them where he could access them without being pestered. No one ever checked the children's section for the adult books he had sequestered there. Jordan said he never read children's books until much older.
At age five he had three novels stacked on a table in his room (one of which included a Verne work) and he stated that at that moment he knew he would "make stories like that someday."
He said that he had only read one children's book—something about a pig, I think—and that the first book he ever read was the second half of White Fang. His brother had started reading it to him, and he wanted to finish it himself. He talked about a book that came out in the 40s which he said was the first bodice-ripper, and that he read it when he was five. He said that he was confused for quite a while after that and got in trouble for calling girls "wench". A while after that he got his first library card. He was disappointed to find out that he was supposed to stay in the children's section of the library, and that the librarian wanted to read The Velveteen Rabbit to him. He made a habit of sneaking into the adult section, grabbing a book at random, and taking it back to a reading room in the children's section. He found that if the book wasn't any good, he could leave it on the table there, and it would get returned to its proper place, but if he liked it, he would put it in the shelves of the reading room, and it would stay there until he was done with it.
Someone asked what he's reading right now, and he said Salt, which is, I guess, actually all about salt. There were other questions like that and he recommended the fantasy of C.S. Friedman, John M. Ford, and Guy Gavriel Kay. He also recommended the essays of Montaigne and Guns, Germs, and Steel.
At the last signing, he recommended When China Ruled the Seas (fascinating book, BTW); when asked about historical books this time, he recommended Essays of Montaigne, and he also recommended Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond.
At that point I was reading anything I could get my hands on. You see I was reading what I found on my parents bookshelves. Later, when I got a library card, I was disgusted to find I was supposed to go to something called the "children's section".
The only books I found there that I enjoyed were the "Freddy the Pig" books, and some juvenile Heinlein. Those books fascinated me and I loved them. For the rest, there was nothing in the children's section that I wanted to pay attention to, and I wanted to get books like I'd been reading at home. So, I'd go into the adult's section of the library and snag books off the adult shelves. I'd take them to a reading room and I'd put the books that I wanted to keep on a shelf where they didn't seem to be bothered, and I'd leave the ones that I didn't find interesting on the table where they would get put back.
Thus I went through life never reading any children's books, until I was married. The first time my wife got sick she wanted me to read her children's books...so I did.
Yes, it seems to me that the SF you like, as do I, so often the "ta-pocketa-pocketa" if you remember the old Walter Mitty movie, the ta-pocketa-pocketa takes over and the characters are just there to see that it happens at the right time. The best SF goes much beyond that and there certainly a lot of flaws in a lot of Fantasy as well, but perhaps that's the reason I decided to go with Fantasy instead of SF.
Also, SF has absorbed something from mainstream literature, and that is something I think of as a moral ambivalence, which is the erroneous application of situational ethics. There really isn't anything that's right or wrong, there is no good or evil, it all depends on the circumstances.
And the technology is very often much more important than the issues, it seems to me.
I say this as someone who likes Neil Stephenson. I like Greg Bear. I reread Heinlein periodically...I love Science Fiction.
"I learned to read early—I was reading Jules Verne and Mark Twain at five—and my Uncles went into their attics and gave me not only their old "boys' books," things like Jack Armstrong: All-American Boy and The Flying Midshipmen, but also old comics they had from the '30s and '40s. For a while, I had a fairly valuable collection, though I didn't know it then. None of the really rare items, but some that would have fetched nice prices. Though I have to admit that after all these years, I can't recall the issue numbers. I bought, too, choosing carefully because my allowance only stretched so far. My own purchases were pretty far ranging. For example, I liked Batman and Scrooge McDuck about equally. In any case, that ended when I went away to college.
"I came home for the first time to find out that my mother had given all of the comics and boys' books to various children because 'surely I didn't want those old things any more.' There's no way you can go to a ten-year old and tell him you want him to give back the comics he was just given. I mean, they weren't that valuable. But I still followed comics, and later graphic novels, which didn't exist when I was in college. It was really intermittent—'Howard the Duck,' Chaykin's 'American Flagg,' a few others that I still have—until Frank Miller got his hands on Batman. That brought me back on board, and I've been there ever since. I'm pretty choosy, partly as a matter of time—most of my reading is print—but when I see something that's new and interesting, I leap on it. And I buy compilations of older works that I recall fondly, too, for myself and as gifts. My wife doesn't know it, but she was a fan of Plastic Man as a girl, and she's getting six hardcover volumes of 'Plastic Man' compilations as soon they're delivered."
For Deadsy, the last book I completed was Walter Mosley's Cinnamon Kiss. I just started Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys. And I'm ashamed to say that when I first saw your post on Wotmania about having a secret, I thought, "Ah-ha! Palm or hairbrush?" Just following the context, and your blushes. Then I realized what it was. Thank you for keeping the secret.
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.
"The spoken word is the basis for all storytelling," he told us from his 1797 home in the historic district of Charleston, South Carolina. "My father and my uncles were storytellers. When we went fishing or hunting, there was always storytelling at night. I grew up with that oral tradition. I've always thought that my writing lends itself to being read aloud for that very reason."
We asked him about the advantages of listening to a book as opposed to reading it.
"When reading an actual book," he answered, "it's possible to skip over things. You make connections in your head, and you find you're not registering every word. But when it's read to you, there's a difference. You hear every word."
I am taking a great many books with me to Mayo. There is a B&N not far from our hotel, but on the evidence, I, at least, may not feel up to much in the way of book shopping. So I'll finally get around to reading Erikson, and I'll have a tall stack of mysteries and thrillers, many of them older books by John Dickson Carr and Carter Dickson (the same fellow, for those who don't know; the master of the sealed room murder). Mainly I'll be setting myself up to laugh as much as possible, though, so I have a large number of Terry Pratchett novels, plus Donald Westlake (with apologies to Terry, the funniest man currently writing in the English language), P.G. Wodehouse and Tom Sharpe, an Englishman now deceased, I believe, but with a sense of humor so skewed and a world-view so outre that Carl Hiassen seems flat and ordinary by comparison. And I like Hiassen a lot. A number of his books are in that carton already winging its way to our hotel in Rochester.
Since we can't read all the time, and no one really wants to watch television much more than they absolutely must, we have also sent up a Scrabble set, a backgammon board, a go board (though we will play go-moku, the simple version for teaching children) and a set of Apples to Apples, a game that Mike Ford and Elise Matthesen introduced us to.
Maria informed me that RJ loved Erikson, was very impressed by him. She gave me (along with a few hundred other fans) a tour of RJ's office in 2011, and I observed Erikson on RJ's famed bookshelves, so of course I asked (I also spotted Goodkind); I don't believe RJ commented on his impressions anywhere publicly, at least not that was reported (we all know what he thinks of Goodkind). Apparently a lot of fans recommended the Malazan books to RJ.
I received some additional acknowledgments from the Mayo of people who have sent money in honor of James O. Rigney, so here goes. My deepest thanks to Mr. Michael Nemeth, Mr. Ryan Tibbetts, Mr. Steven Odden and Mr. Spencer Martin. I really can't say how much this means to me.
One thing I should point out is that you won't receive an acknowledgement, and you won't get one either, not from me, if you send money in honor of Robert Jordan. Their patient is James O. Rigney, and they don't have a clue in the world who Robert Jordan is. Well, most don't.
Now, just a few tidbits, since there really isn't much happening here. I'm reading an old Tom Sharpe novel, Ancestral Vices, while waiting for a cousin to arrive for a visit, and the book is hilarious.
For Egwene, yes, I read Ray and Janny's Empire Trilogy and enjoyed it. Harriet has been the editor from the beginning with these books, but she has never been a co-writer is any sense or I would have credited it. My women come from observation of women in the world around me ranging back to my family. You see, I started early. When I was no more than three or four my mother gave a garden party, and a friend of hers picked me up. It didn't feel like being picked up by mother or by a baby sitter. I remember feeling her soft summer dress slide against her skin. I recall the soft, floral scent of her perfume. My mother might have worn that perfume, but this woman did not smell as all like mother.
She bent to set me down, and her grip on me slipped. Now her dress was one of those summer dresses that buttoned up the front, and as her grip slipped, I slid down, burying my face in her cleavage. My head seemed about to burst with the scent of her. Then she had me upright again, and she laughed, and ruffled my hair, and called me precocious. Which I recall because I ran off to learn what it meant.
After that, I looked around at the boys and girls my age. When we were dressed differently, we were very different, but if we were all dressed alike, in khakis or cut-offs for crabbing or to help with the shrimping, there wasn't much difference at all in how we looked or acted. The thing was, I could see me growing into my father, but I could not see any of the girls growing into that woman who had picked me up. So I began studying these strange creatures. I'll say nothing of methodologies. I have spent more than one night being harried across the rooftops by a mob of women carrying torches and pitchforks. We say nothing of sickles, of whatever size. We will not speak of those.
In any event, along the way I came to some small understanding of a small part of what makes women tick, and this has allowed me to write women that women find to be real.
Hi, guys. I was going to put up a regular post here today, but that is going to have to wait a few days. You see, Mike Ford died last night. To you, he was John M. Ford, two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, including for "Winter Solstice Camelot Station", the only poem ever to win the short fiction award. Or maybe you're a Star Trek Fan and remember his Star Trek novels, such as How Much for the Just Planet? (the only flat-out comedy among all the Trek novels, I think) or The Final Reflection, the only (to that time, anyway) Trek novel done from a Klingon point of view. What he was, frankly, was one of the best poets working in the English language and THE best writer working in the United States bar none. That ain't hyperbole, Jack, That was pure fact. And I only limit it to the States because I figure I'd better give the rest of the world the benefit of the doubt. They might have slipped in somebody as good. I don't follow their stuff closely enough to be sure. Somebody as good, maybe. But nobody better.
More importantly to me, though, he was my brother. He shared not even so much blood with me as Wilson, but Mike was still my brother. I don't say things like that lightly. Maybe not blood of my blood, but bone of my bone, and a son and brother of this house. For thirty years he came to Charleston to spend Christmas with Harriet and me, and sometimes Thanksgiving and maybe Easter. He was coming home for Christmas again. We'd made plans.
Christ, I miss him.
Sorry, Mike. I know you'd have preferred some clever repartee and a quip or three, but my quipper seems to be busted.
He wanted to write everything there was when he was beginning. In the first place, he said he wanted to save his real name for his history of South Carolina. Then his Vietnam novel.
In youth he loved Louis L'Amour's Westerns. He bought a new Louis L'Amour book one time and when he read it, it wasn't a Western, it was a mystery! So, he thought he'd have a name for every genre to keep this from happening to his fans. "Robert Jordan" had nothing to do with For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Reference to a post from a Dragonmounter: The post was from a woman who started reading the series 12 years ago. She had small children, not enough money for drugs or alcohol. A friend gave her The Eye of the World. And it worked! Now her son is reading them and when he picked up The Gathering Storm answered the question of why he didn't use his own name: "Why of course he did! He's a superhero! You don't think Batman's real name is Batman, do you?"
The signing was supposed to start at 7 pm. At 4 pm there were already people in the store waiting. At 5:45 pm they started to give out numbers and move people into line. That was when we realized just how big this event was going to be. Some of us had felt a little pessimistic about turnout because there hadn't been much advertising. We scoffed at the estimate Tor had given the store of 400 – 500 people. However at 6 pm we had over 60 people in line already, and still an hour to go until the signing started. We started to realize that this could well be long night. Brandon, Harriet, and Jason Denzel of Dragonmount arrived around 6 pm. Brandon and Harriet sat down with a couple of people for interviews, including one with Tower Guard Virginia for the 4th Age podcast. Meanwhile Jason helped us Tower Guards with getting things set up. Then at 6:30 pm the Tower Guards, Jason, Harriet, and Brandon got to sit down to a nice pizza dinner and talk. One of my favorite parts was talking with Harriet personally about how we both loved Terry Pratchet's "Discworld" series, and how she and RJ used to share reading them, passing the books back and forth as they got them read. I also loved to listen as Brandon talked about writing and the best ways to get going when you're having troubles.
He answered John M. Ford (again), Greg Bear, and C.S. Friedman (again), who also has written a lot of good science fiction.
He actually reads a lot less science fiction, because he doesn't like distopias all that much. He likes technology. Why would people have to die at age 30 in the mud in some miserable hovel when they could live so much longer, do so much more.
Especially since it wasn't that long ago that people in American did die at the average age of 30. You just had to go back a few hundred years.
I'll tell you. I learned to read at a very early age.
How old were you?
Four. I never read children's books. The first book I read by myself, the second half of it, at least, was White Fang. My older brother would read it to me when he was stuck babysitting and somehow or other I began making the connection between what was coming out of his mouth and the words on the page.
And I do remember. It must have a weekend, because it was the day and my parents came back and my brother put the book on the shelf and took off. He always read to me what he wanted to read, usually not children's books. And I wanted to know the rest of it, so I got the book back down and worked my way through it. I didn't get all of the words, but I got enough to do the story.
And I remember a particular incident when I was five, which is when I realized that I really wanted to be a writer. I had finished reading From the Earth to the Moon and Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I put those three books on the table, standing up on end, and I sat in a chair with my feet on the chair and my chin on my knees and I looked at those books and said, "I'm going to do that one day. I'm going to write one day, make stories like that."
How did you get from there to the world of fantasy?
Well, the short version is that in fantasy you can write about things that you can't write about in mainstream fiction, or even in some other genres and still keep a straight face today. Right and wrong are taken to be simply two faces of one coin. It's simply a matter of looking in the same mirror, but you're standing at two different points, that there's no difference. And I believe that there is a difference.
You mean in fiction today?
Yes, yes. In so much fiction it is a great effort to show just how many flaws the good guys have and just how many extenuating circumstances the bad guys had. They had terrible childhoods and were abused children and suddenly you find yourself feeling almost sympathetic toward someone who is out and out evil. I don't like that.
I know too many people who had miserable childhoods—grew up in the slums and a ghetto and they did okay. They didn't come out bent. They didn't come out twisted, so I don't like that very much.
I think it's hard to tell the difference between right and wrong. Sometimes a situation comes along and the only choice you have is between bad and worse. But I believe it's necessary to make the effort to try and find a difference. The other way it becomes very sloppy and it's very easy to just make your decision on the spur of the moment, without any thought about what you are doing. You never think that it's right or wrong, or you never even think about whether you are choosing between bad and worse. You're simply doing something for your own advantage.
That attitude, however, is very much a reflection of society.
That is a reflection of society, and it is part of society that I reject. I believe that you have to make that choice. I'm not going to tell anybody what to think, I'm not going to tell anybody what to do or what wrong is, but I think you have to try to make that decision yourself. And it goes beyond simply what's good for me today.
I don't preach in my books. I just have my characters face some hard choices and have difficulty making their decisions. It's not always easy. It's not always cut and dry, and when somebody does something that is just for their own temporary advantage, to get a quick payoff, it doesn't always turn out the way they like it.
Do you manage to get this philosophy into your work?
Well, I try to. I try to. Again, what I am doing basically is telling stories. But I like to have my characters in what amounts to real life situations. That is, making hard decisions and finding out that the easy answer is quite often the wrong one, and that very often the right thing to do is the hardest thing to do. It's just a matter of fitting it into the story. I'm not preaching. I just try to reflect these situations and these things in the story.
I read everything. At the moment I'm reading an Andrew Vachss novel. The book before that was called The Code Book, about the development of ciphers and codes. The book before that was called Strange Victory, about the defeat of France in 1940—something that I think should be required reading for every member of Congress and every single person in the Pentagon.
So you're an eclectic reader?
Yes. Before that John Sanford and Patricia Cornwell and George Martin. I don't act as a tourist when I'm on (book) tour. I make my appearances, and in between time I put my feet up to rest them and I read.
... Then my partner and I went to get a bite, thinking we'll make it to the Opening ceremony in time. Wrong. We got back after Martin had spoken. Apparently, Jordan made a short speech when he was introduced. You all should ask Trebla or Gareth to report it, since I wasn't there. But it's funny.....
.... The interview was held at 2pm on Saturday. We went to that one after lunch. Martin introduced Jordan, and he repaid Jordan for his quip during the opening ceremony. I'll post both parts since Trebla hasn't come on to post yet.
In the Opening Ceremony, Jordan got up and he started saying that his mother had had some mental illness issues with manic depressive disorder. He went on to say that he had inherited her depressive mood swings and that he's been fighting it on and off for years now. Once in a while, when he's in the depressed mood, he'll write and later on, publish the work under the pseudonym of George R R Martin (because his real name is actually George B B Martin, of course). Hah.
So in the interview session, Martin got up and said that it's true that he didn't write the Song of Ice and Fire, that it was actually Jordan who wrote it. That's why Jordan didn't have time to actually write the WoT, and instead, the WoT was written by David Eddings. Muwahahahahah.
Charles Dickens, John D. MacDonald, Louis L'Amour and Mark Twain.
I've learned different things from different ones.
My wife. I find her infinitely fascinating and infinitely entertaining. My second choice would be a lift repair man.
Who would you most DISlike to be trapped in a lift with?
I'm not going to answer that one.
What would you pack for space? (Is there a food, beverage, book, teddy bear, etc that you couldn't do without?)
I assume that the oxygen is provided, so the essays of Montaigne.
Oh, yes. I used Arthurian legends, Chinese and Japanese mythology, Indian mythology, traditions from Latin America and Africa. Some myths from Europe, but not much of Celtic because it’s been done so much.
This means you’ve read about all of these subjects?
I read about everything. My knowledge is this wide and much less deep. I truly like to read about a lot of things.
I do in my writing style, not in the stories I tell. I believe six writers to have influenced the way I write: Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Louis L'Amour, Robert Heinlein and John D. McDonald. I know it’s a very wide range group of writer….
Well, it certainly tells a lot of the wide range of your readings.
(Laughs) Jane Austen gave me an insight in the relationship between characters and in what we might call “social relationship”.
Mark Twain did something that was unheard of, in his time: he had people speak the way people really spoke. I think it was revolutionary. Twain was the first to use the common language of the day, he taught me to use language the way I wanted. Dickens did some of the same, but later.
L'Amour, John D. McDonald and Heinlein all gave me something about the use of language, mainly a certain freedom in using words, a lack of rigidity.
I was born in 1948 in Charleston, South Carolina, where I live now, in a house built in 1797. My home town is famous because of the shelling of Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor during the Civil War between the North and South. My brother, older than me by twelve years, instilled in me an appreciation for books . And when our parents left him to the nanny, he read to me, not children’s books, but those that interested him—Mark Twain, HG Wells, Jules Verne. Along with Twain, my favorite writers became Louis Lamour, Charles Dickens, John W. McDonald. In the years 1968-1970, I served in the Army.
Growing up, he'd often told about lining up I think Jules Verne, Mark Twain and Jack London, and thinking, "I want to write books."
He joined the Army in 1968 and served two tours in Vietnam as a helicopter gunner.
He returned to begin college at The Citadel as a veteran student and took a job as a civilian nuclear engineer working for the United States Navy.
And it was during this time that he took a hard look at his life and decided to become a full-time writer.
He was in the hospital with a blood clot when he did the famous—the thing so many people talk about doing—he threw a book across the room and said, "I can do better than that." He wrote something called Warriors of the Altaii. I read it, and...no, it wasn't what I was interested in. But it showed he could do it. So I gave him a contract for a book that became The Fallon Blood. We'd been seeing a lot of each other. He brought a tiger claw from Vietnam to show my son. Will came running upstairs to my office one day and said, "Mom, he'll take me to see the Star Trek movie." And I said, "Can I come too?" And he said yes. And I guess that was our first date.
She edited Jim, and they fell in love, and they got married, and we all became friends.
At the moment, I have just over 13,000 hardcover books.
That is fantastic. Can you tell me how much and what type of books you've read, or read lately?
I get a lot of books from various places, and after reading them I pass them along to my friends. The reason for this is that I have a very good memory, and once I have read a book it remains in my mind, so I do not read the same books twice, because it is not as exciting, as I remember the whole story after reading the first few pages.
What type of books do I read? There are many best-sellers, mostly theological, historical, and scientific and technical works. It is important to me that I am interested in the book, but I often choose books based on reviews which appear in various journals. I'm actually omnivorous.
Do you have any favorites?
From the specialized work: Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel; otherwise, Lord of the Rings from Tolkien. But if you were to tell me now that you are going to take me with you to a desert island, and I will only be allowed to take one book, we would never get anywhere, because I could not choose which one to take with me.
There were no personalizations the first time through because they wanted to get Harriet out of there. I did manage to ask her a question, though (paraphrased):
What did RJ like to read (fiction or non-fiction) on the Civil War?
He read non-fiction, no fiction.
Not even Gone With the Wind?
So nothing in particular?
No, I can't remember anything in particular.
I know he liked Jane Austen from that general period...
(big smile) Yes, he did.
The line was long, and she had someone else, so I had to leave it there. I didn't realize until later that Jane Austen died well before the Civil War began; I wasn't sure exactly when she lived.
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!