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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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Elaida wasn't a Sitter when she led the arrest of Siuan, but she had organized it, managed to arrange for a rump Hall of the Tower to vote on deposing Siuan and raising her in Siuan's place. By the time Siuan was arrested, Elaida was the "legal" Amrylin Seat, so of course she was leading the Sitters.
As for her change of heart of the Black Ajah, she bounces on whether or not she believes in their existence. When she has convinced herself that they do exist, she is vehement on the subject, but uneasy over Darkfriend sisters, and so manages to convince herself that she was mistaken, whereupon she becomes vehement about their non-existence. But then she becomes uneasy over the possibility that they do exist after all and convinces herself that they really do after all, whereupon.... I have even had a character in the White Tower comment that sometimes Elaida doesn't seem to know from one day to the next whether or not she believes in the Black Ajah.
CORRECTION: Answering these questions, I have always taken the assumption that I knew the books well enough that I did not need to refer to my notes. My answer for the Week 20 Question showed that I was mistaken. I said that Elaida was never a Sitter, but no sooner was that answer posted than my assistant Maria, who also is a fan, came to me with the relevant passage where Elaida is mentioned as a Sitter. I went to my notes, and after a lot of checking, I found the following in a file working out exactly how some points were to be structured and making sure that I had all the details covered. Somehow, I had never incorporated it into the base notes, perhaps because it seemed such a small matter, Elaida having been a Sitter for such a short time and then only as prelude to replacing Siuan and Amyrlin.
“Returning to the White Tower, Elaida quickly became convinced that Siuan and Moiraine were engaged in a scheme that involved Rand al’Thor. Indeed, she had suspicions of this before departing Caemlyn for Tar Valon. Moiraine’s presence in Tar Valon had not escaped her, nor that Moiraine had been seen with Rand. If, as seemed the more likely, he was simply a man who could channel who Siuan and Moiraine intended to make use of as a false Dragon, then it was a scheme that was extremely dangerous to the Tower. Revelation of such involvement could easily shatter the Tower’s prestige, and with it the influence that was the primary cornerstone of the Tower’s influence in the world. And if he was indeed the Dragon Reborn, Elaida certainly had no confidence in Siuan’s ability to handle the him, as surely the Dragon Reborn would need to be handled, guided and directed, not to mention controlled. Helped by her long-standing personal animosity toward Siuan and Moiraine, Elaida came to the conclusion that Siuan must be removed for the good of the Tower. This was not something that could be accomplished by an ordinary sister, however the stepping down of a Red Sitter (Amira Moselle) gave her an opening, and she managed to get herself chosen as Amira’s replacement in the Hall of the Tower.
In large part this was because of Galina Casban’s support as head of the Red Ajah, Galina having her own reasons to take any chance to pull Siuan down and, of course, favoring anything that would give the Amyrlin Seat to the Red Ajah again after so long. Galina made no attempt to attain the Amyrlin Seat herself because she knew she had little or no chance of being raised. Elaida, who had been so long away from Tar Valon and thus remained out of the political currents of the Tower, not to mention the favorable mention she had received for her guidance of Queen Morgase and Andor, was another matter.
Once Elaida had a chair in the Hall, it was a relatively simple matter to identify the Sitters who seemed most likely to stand for deposing Siuan, since a number of Sitters were uneasy at best about what Siuan was up to. Her support in the Hall had eroded sufficiently by The Great Hunt that she had opposition to her journey to Shienar. As a Sitter, Elaida was able to call a sitting of the Hall while making sure that only the Sitters she wanted to attend actually received notification. Elaida is a forceful and effective speaker, and her arguments to this bare quorum in favor of deposing Siuan were also her campaign for being raised to the Amyrlin Seat herself, so the vote to depose Siuan was followed immediately by the vote to make Elaida the new Amyrlin. She did not expect the violent reaction that would come from this. She had not had access to the secret histories for very long at this point, so her view was that of most sisters. The Tower had always acceded to the will of the Hall however sisters might grumble. Like many others, she was blind-sided by what she thought she knew.”
So there it is. I offer my apologies for giving an erroneous answer. From now on, I’ll be sure to check my notes.
If you could be from any nation in Randland, which one and why?
Malkier, I think. Though others ask me this question, and I think my answer changes. I just think the Malkieri are awesome.
On the question on how he could keep track of every person, culture, nation, etc., Robert Jordan answered that he had a file for every person, nation, city, culture, etc., describing it. In the case of persons, traumatic experiences, origin, favorite foods and colors, family, education, etc., is stored. Every person that appears several times, or has the chance to appear several times has a such file. Similar information is stored on the other entities. This information is used to flesh out the characters etc. and make them three-dimensional before the book itself is written.
Part of this information is going to be given in the Guide to the WoT books that is going to be published this autumn, but far from everything.
The amount of notes he held on persons, countries, cultures, cities, events etc he approximated to be as large as the amount of text in the currently published books. Some of this information, albeit a very small part, will be included in the WoT Guide.
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.
No, because when I'm with the character I do get into his head, quite intimately. Or her head. In an aside, the biggest compliment I've had in a way was paid to me when I was autographing for the second book. At two different signings, I had a woman approach me and say that she had lost a bet, or an argument in one case, because I was a man. They'd been sure that 'Robert Jordan' was a pseudonym for a woman because the women characters they thought were so well written that no man could do that.
But I do get into their heads. It's one of the reasons the books are as large as they are. There are that many layers and I cover that much territory and still get intimate, if you will, with each of the characters. Or at least each of the characters who is being a main character, or a viewpoint character at least, in that particular book.
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.
My question for Brandon would be:
What kind of mental "retooling" does it take for him to work on an already established world/storyline like Wheel of Time since this is someone else's work?
Also, were there there a lot of notes or material left by Mr. Jordan to work from?
I thought about this quite a lot during the months when I was reading the Wheel of Time again straight through, trying to figure out how I would approach writing the final book. Obviously, this project wasn't going to be like anything I'd done before. I couldn't just approach it as I did one of my solo novels. And yet, it felt like trying to match Robert Jordan's style exactly would have made me lapse into parody.
A lot of the mental 'retooling' I did focused on getting inside the characters' heads. I decided that if I could make the characters sound right, the book would FEEL right, even if some of the writing itself was different. I also decided that I would adapt my style to fit the project. I became more descriptive, for one, and wrote viewpoint with the more intimate, in-head narrative style that Mr. Jordan used. Neither of these were attempts to match how he wrote exactly, but more me trying to match my style to The Wheel of Time, if that makes any sense.
In answer to the second question, he left LOTS of notes behind. He wrote complete scenes in places, dictated other scenes, left piles of notes and materials. The prologue was almost all completed by him (that will be split half in this book, half in the next.) The ending scenes were written by him as well. In the middle, there are a lot of scene outlines as well.
That's not to say there wasn't A LOT of work to do. The actual number of completed scenes was low, and in some places, there was no direction at all what to do. But his fingerprints are all over this novel. My goal was not to write a Brandon Sanderson book, but a Wheel of Time book. I want this novel (well, these three novels, now) to be his, not mine.
RJ replied, "I'm a genius."
Then he talked about his database of characters which now exceeds 1.5 megabytes, apparently, and that he has them filed by which country they were last seen in. When he needs to use a character for a scene, he finds the ones that are in the geographic location that he needs, and then picks the one that will best suit his purposes from that list.
For Justy_Hakubi, do I have notes? I have notes you wouldn't believe. For example, the file called Individual Aes Sedai and Initiates of the White Tower is well over 2 megabytes now, and the Aes Sedai General file, which contains details of Tower law, Tower life, training for novices and Accepted, customs, ceremonies etc, is nearly as big. The file Remember, which lists things about each character that I must remember when writing about him or her, would be well over a thousand pages if printed out. I have an individual file on each major character and on each nation and each group, such as the Children of the Light and the Kin. The nation and group files include, among other things, every person of that nation or group ever mentioned, everything that has been said about them, and information about them that has never been in the books but helped me see a three-dimensional character. And those are just the tip of the iceberg.
For F Horn of Valere, I spend relatively little time with the notes compared to the time I spend actually writing. I do a refresher run-through before I begin writing, and I have what I call a "base notes" file for each storyline and each group. That contains the major things I believe might be necessary for each storyline along with reminders of where more detailed information is to be found.
For Gillmadin, I actually had comparatively few notes when I sold the books to Tor. They built up considerably over the writing of The Eye of the World, and still more later. To give an example, for Eye, I had considerable notes about the Aes Sedai, about Andor, the Two Rivers, Shienar, the Ways and the history of the world, but my notes on, say Cairhien, were much sketchier. When I needed to write about Cairhien, though, I fleshed those notes out. I didn't begin writing the Wheel of Time until after I was finished with writing the Conan novels, but some of the ideas that would become tWoT were kicking around in my head before I began The Fallon Blood.
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.
Anyway, I gave him the book, told him I was liking it so far, and asked him how he keeps track of all the random Aes Sedai? I was just kinda making polite chit-chat, and hadn't planned a question.
So he launched into what sounded like a stock response about keeping a computer file of all the "initiates of the White Tower" with detailed descriptions, etc, and he finished with saying that it's a really big file, 2.5 megs. Without really thinking about it, I said "Wow, so how am I supposed to keep track of all that without that file?"
The store manager standing behind RJ gave a little nervous laugh, and Harriet, jumps in and said "you're just supposed to be dazzled."
"OK," I respond, and gave a kinda questioning look to RJ.
"Read, read" he answers.
"Sure. Thanks for signing your book."
I had a rough outline of a little over 3,000 years of history before I started writing the Wheel of Time books, enough to make me feel like it was a real world where I could drop in casual mentions of historical events. Where I come from, if you want to say something was a long time ago you say it was 'Before Second Manassas'—it's a historical tag that everyone in Charleston understands. I wanted to be able to do that sort of thing with history in the world of The Wheel of Time.
The history began as a rough sketch with major points inked in. As I went along, I would sometimes look at the chart and say, "If this happened here and this happened there, something like this would probably happen here." It begins to create a real pattern of history. The readers picked up on it, realizing that there's more to the world than just what's happening in the story. The first time I got a letter asking about something like that, I thought, "God, this guy must be a fruitloop! He's talking about this as if it were real." But then it hit me. "Wait a minute, idiot. This is what you want them to feel, isn't it?" So I answered his question. A few times I've had to be fast on my feet, because I hadn't figured out something in the history that was very minor.
DragonCon has a track that follows my books, and one of the things they asked me to do was hand out the prizes at the trivia contest. In the final round these two women were up there answering questions I probably couldn't have answered without my notes. But they were just popping out the answers, ding ding ding. I never expected this incredible depth of study.
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?"
I have to be honest. I'm not Mr. Jordan. He's the master, and I'm just a journeyman. He's one of the greatest fantasy authors the genre has ever known. I can't hope to write with his skill and power at this stage in my career—and I think there are very, very few writers who could.
Fortunately, I don't have to do this on my own. I have seen the notes, as I mentioned above, and I find them very reassuring. Let me put forth a metaphor for you.
Pretend you have purchased an expensive violin from a master craftsman. It probably wouldn't surprise you to discover that one of the craftsman's apprentices helped create that violin. The master may have had the apprentice sand, or apply varnish, or perhaps shape some of the less important pieces of wood. In fact, if you looked at the violin before master craftsman handed it off to his apprentice, it might just look like a pile of wood to you, and not an instrument at all.
However, the master craftsman did the most important parts. He shaped the heart of the violin, crafting the pieces which would produce the beautiful sound. He came up with the design for the violin, as well as the procedures and processes used in creating his violins. It's not surprising that some other hands were involved in the busywork of following those procedures and designs, once the most important work was done. And so, even though the apprentice helped, the violin can proudly bear the master's signature and stamp.
It's the same with this book. What I've been given may not look like a novel to you, but it excites me because I can see the book Mr. Jordan was creating. All of the important chunks are there in such detail that I feel like I've read the completed novel, and not just an outline. Yes, there is still quite a bit of work to be done. Many of the less important scenes are there only as a framework of a few sentences. However, Mr. Jordan left behind the design of this book. I am convinced that between myself, his wife (who was his editor), and his assistants, we can complete this book to be very, very close to the way he would have done.
This is one of the reasons that reading the material made me feel so relieved. While there are huge chunks that I need to write, there is always an explanation of what needs to be revealed, and what needs to be left for the reader to decide on their own. I will not be making any of these decisions on my own, but will instead be following Mr. Jordan's wishes regarding the plotting.
He ties up some very important plot points. Others, he leaves without explicit explanation. That was his way, and is one of the things that makes these books so wonderful. You don't need to worry, then, that I will try to explain too much or that I will leave out too much. I will do as the master instructed.
I'm going to start posting my impressions of the Wheel of Time books as I read through them again. This will just be me blogging my reactions as a reader and my thoughts as I approach the humbling task of finishing the Wheel of Time Book Twelve. As a reminder, I've read these books before, but it has now been some six or seven years since I've read through the entire series from the beginning. It used to be my habit to read through them all when a new one came out, but life got too busy and the series too long for me to do that with the later books.
There won't be any spoilers of Book Twelve in these, though there will be spoilers to the book I'm currently reading. So, if you're not familiar with the Wheel of Time but are planning to read the books, you might want to skip these posts.
Doing this makes me just a little wary. I like connecting with readers and offering posts like this to give you an insight into an author's mind and into the process. I feel that you, as the fans, have a great deal of ownership and stake in this project, as it is because of you that the Wheel of Time was so successful.
However, I don't want my posts to serve as a catalyst to panic regarding my handling of Book Twelve. For instance, if I write that certain character is kind of bugging me in a scene, I worry that people will think that I'm making a criticism of Mr. Jordan's writing or that I'm criticizing that character in specific. I'm not doing either. I think Mr. Jordan's writing is fantastic—even as I read through again, I'm struck by how well he was able to weave so many different ideas together. I really do have a sincere affection for all of these characters—I've grown up with them, as many of you have, and they feel like siblings to me. Just as a sibling can be annoying, I feel that a character can be annoying. It doesn't mean I intend to cut them from Book Twelve or give them any less screen time.
I thought, then, that I would make this post as an introduction. None of my posts over the next few months are intended to give any foreshadowing of book twelve. Please don't panic if I seem to be interpreting a character's motivations differently from how you view them. The materials Mr. Jordan left are quite extensive, and the final book's plot and characterizations were set by him. My goal with that book will be to as invisible as possible, and certainly don't intend to insert any of my own themes, agendas, or philosophies into it.
I will collect these blog posts in a list, and you'll be able to find them on the A Memory of Light section of my website, once we add it.
People ask me if working on this book is surreal. Before, I always said yes, but I don't think it really hit me HOW strange this is until these last few days.
Yesterday evening, I pulled out the electronic versions of the novels that Mr. Jordan's assistant sent with me when I left Charleston. I combined them all into a single word document to use in searching. (It clocks in at 9,300 pages and about 3 million words, if you're curious.) Using Microsoft Word's search features, I can call up all sorts of useful information from the entire series at the touch of a few keys. (By the way, thanks for sending those electronic files, Alan! You thought of this a full three months before I ended up needing them. I guess that's the sign of an excellent assistant.)
In compiling this document and setting a few bookmarks at important points (mostly the beginning of each book) I hesitated at the copyright statement of A Crown of Swords. He's a book I read over ten years ago, a book by an author I idolized. A distant and unapproachable figure, a hero himself, the one spearheading the epic fantasy movement of my era. And now I have a copy of the original file he typed and I'm working on finishing his last book.
That, my friends, seems to DEFINE the word surreal to me.
I was shocked the first time the people at Tor called this a collaboration. By publishing terms, I guess that's indeed what it is—a collaboration, where two authors work on a single novel. But to me, the term just felt strange. Collaborating with Robert Jordan seemed to set me too high in the process. I'm finishing the Master's work for him, since he is unable to. I kind of feel like Sam, carrying Frodo the last few paces up the mountain. Robert Jordan did all the work; for most of these twenty years, I've only been an observer. I'm just glad I could be here to help for the last stretch when I was needed.
For those of you who wondered, I HAVE read Knife of Dreams and New Spring, but I haven't yet posted blog reactions to them. I read faster than I could keep up on the blog. (I've often noted that I'm really not that great a blogger.) I'll post reactions to these books as I go. For now, I need to get back to Book Twelve.
I posted that other email I got that was somewhat negative, but the overwhelming majority are very encouraging and thoughtful. I got one piece recently from a reader named Matt which got me thinking. It relates to A Memory of Light, and so I figured I'd answer it here.
Brandon—My name is Matt, and I have been following your blog posts and website since you were announced as the writer for A Memory of Light. A question to ask occurred to me today that I don't think I ever saw in any of your interviews/posts about being selected to write the book. As a fan, is a part of you disappointed to read the ending of the story the way you did, that is through RJ's notes and not after reading an entire book?
Excellent question! My answer follows:
It was indeed a different experience to read through the outline and materials, with the holes and occasional vague sections, rather than reading a complete novel. A little bit of me is regretful. Of all the readers and fans out there, I'm one of the few who won't be able to experience this book for the first time in its complete form. Mr. Jordan's assistants and wife have probably been in that boat for years!
And yet, I am a writer, and I don't look at an outline the same way that a regular reader might. The closest approximation I can make is to origami masters. If you go and look at their websites, they will often release 'patterns' that go with a new piece of origami they've developed. The pattern is just a sheet of paper with lines on it. I look at that, and all I see are lines. But to another origami master, that pattern reveals the exact method used to create the piece. They can look at the pattern and see the finished product.
This outline was kind of like that for me, particularly since the ending was the most complete section. I could look at it, and my mind filled in the gaps, adding the foreshadowings and character climaxes that had come before, taking the hints and the outline chunks that Mr. Jordan wrote and putting them all together. It didn't feel like reading a complete book, but I felt like I could SEE that complete book as he would have written it, and that has become my guide in writing it myself.
(I might also note at the end here that one thing I forgot to include in my email to him is that while I didn't get to read the final book like you all will, I DID get to find out what happened at the end of the series a good two years ahead of anyone else!)
I'm sorry to be so sparse with the posting this week. If you've been following the progress bar, you might have noticed that A Memory of Light jumped up one percent each day for the first three days of the week. I've been hitting the drafting hard, as I want to get a large chunk done before Worldcon distracts me in two weeks.
I've been working on mostly material that Mr. Jordan left behind, which is the larger reason why I've been able to move so quickly. There's still a lot to do on many of these sections he wrote, however. Some are in outline form, others were dictated in an almost 'screenplay' format without anything other than dialogue. Some others are complete as-is, and I can just drop them into the document without changes.
Overall, however, what has been left behind has allowed let me move at about double speed. We'll see if I can keep it up for another few days or so, as it would be nice to be at the 1/3rd mark by the end of the week. (Though that would take another 12k in another three days. Whew!)
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.
Brandon says that when he arrived at the Rigney house in Charleston, the first two things he asked to see were how the book ended—and who killed Asmodean.
Of the 200 manuscript pages that Jim wrote, the largest part is the prologue, the next largest is the ending, and the rest of the pages are chunks from elsewhere in the book. Brandon estimated that if Jim had completed the manuscript it would have ended up at 2,000 manuscript pages [that’s 500,000 words using standard manuscript format].
The other question that popped up several times is this one: Am I including the pages that Mr. Jordan wrote in that wordcount? The answer is yes and no. What I'm doing is writing through the book by viewpoint grouping. That means I start at the beginning, then write through to near the end with a certain set of characters. Then I begin again with a new set of characters. This helps me focus in on those characters so that I don't have to keep track of QUITE so many things at once.
When I reach a section that Mr. Jordan finished, I insert it, then keep going. So the 200k that I've "written" so far includes chunks that I didn't write. However, the unfinished portions also include large chunks of Mr. Jordan's writing that AREN'T yet included in the 200k. I'll include them when I write those characters and get to the parts he has finished. Does that make sense?
And now, since I finished another chapter on Saturday, we have an update to our list below!
A Memory of Light Relative Length Chart: 8/25/08
Alcatraz/Evil Librarians 60,400
New Spring 121,815
—-A MEMORY OF LIGHT 204k So Far!—-
The Final Empire 214,752
The Path of Daggers 226,687
Winter's Heart 238,789
Hero of Ages 244,201
The Dragon Reborn 251,392
The Well of Ascension 252,739
The Great Hunt 267,078
Crossroads of Twilight 271,632
A Crown of Swords 295,028
The Eye of the World 305,902
Knife of Dreams 315,163
The Fires of Heaven 354,109
Lord of Chaos 389,264
The Shadow Rising 393,823
Another one I can answer now that I couldn't before, as I hadn't seen the notes.
However, it's still a tough one to answer. How much do I have to make up? A lot in some places, very little in others. The interview mentioned an 'outline' above. That's a little bit of an understatement regarding what was left. The things mentioned in this question itself are more accurate.
My goal is to retain as much of his own writing as possible, and then fill in the blanks myself. As I've promised Harriet not to talk about these things until the book is out, I feel I can't give specifics right now. Know that there are large swaths of writing to do on my own, and yet even then I feel his hand on my shoulder. Every hole has an entry point and an exit point. I know where the characters are, and I know where they have to go. Sometimes it's my choice on how to get them there. Sometimes there are notes, sometimes there are actual chunks of writing. Sometimes there isn't anything but a quick notation in that character's file explaining their final state at the end of the book.
But this is Robert Jordan's book, not my own. I keep saying that, and I don't want the readers to think I'm approaching it any other way. It's his story, his writing, and his vision.
I think it's unlikely to see the rough drafts. Because I know that the team working on the Wheel of Time—Harriet and those—are somewhat more...skeptical is the wrong word. Robert Jordan didn't like to show his work to people until it was on the twelfth draft. Harriet didn't see it until it'd gone through twelve drafts. He was very...Didn't like to show unfinished work to people. That was just how he was. Different authors approach things different ways. With Warbreaker, my own book, I put the first draft on my web site. I do stuff like that. I work from a different kind of angle. I don't know what it is.
But I'm going to probably push to get her to let me publish the notes, or to publish a book talking that includes part of the notes along with a discussion of how I translated the notes to book. Something like that. I would like to do something like that. The call will be Harriet's. And I probably won't even talk about it with her until the book is done. 'Till, you know, we've got the Wheel of Time done. Then I might approach her and say, "Hey, would you mind if I did something like this? Would you be interested?" Because I think the fans would really like to see it.
I think it would be definitely an interesting idea.
You mentioned the three books. And, I mean...The Wheel of Time is huge. There's lots of different places we could go. They are not places that I think we're going to go. Because we don't want to see this turn into something...Not to say anything against the media properties, that's fine, but we don't want to see the Wheel of Time become that. Robert Jordan left notes on this book, which has become three, but it's become three that are collectively of the same length as the book he was going to write. That's the thing you have to remember with the split. He was writing an 800,000 word book, I'm writing an 800,000 word book—8 to 900,000 word book—Tor has decided to slice it up and release it in three segments. It's not like I've decided to write two extra books. I'm writing the one book and I'm allowing them to split it into three. I don't really have the call on it. But that's something different.
He did leave notes on a few other things. One was called the Outriggers, which he had talked about with his fans writing. He actually had a contract with Tor. I don't know what happened with those, but that was a trilogy that he had planned to write that he had notes for. And then he also had notes for two additional prequels. He had done... He had told Tor he wanted to do three of those; he wrote one of them called New Spring. There was going to be one that was focusing on Tam's story—that's Rand's father—and he was going to do one that was essentially the sequel to New Spring, with Moiraine, how she arrived at the—how she and Lan arrived in the Two Rivers. That sort of thing. And those were planned. There's a chance you'll see those. A chance. My suggestion to Harriet has been to, you know, to be very careful. We don't want to exploit the Wheel of Time to make it go on and on and on. And so, while you may see those books—I know Tom Doherty is pushing for them a lot—we're not going to go back and do the prequel about Lews Therin. We're not going to do a prequel about Artur Hawkwing. We're not going to... You're not going to see this—
—shared world sort of thing. And so, if Harriet asks me to do those, I probably will. Meaning the Outriggers or the prequels. Because I don't want anyone else to do them, if that makes any sense.
Since you've taken over, it's a little bit now your baby.
Yeah. But if we do those, there'll be years between. If that makes any sense.
I think there has to be, yeah.
I mean, I got into this because I want to write books. My own stories. And that's what I'm excited about, that's what I do, and I'm really having a blast doing that. And so...the Wheel of Time is an exception. It's a special thing, that I am really honored to be part of. But I don't want to make my career doing other people's books.
I've got a good story for you. One time, I was trying to keep track of everyone who was with the character Perrin. You guys know Perrin. So Perrin's off doing this thing, and one of the biggest challenges of writing the Wheel of Time books was the sheer number of characters. Not the main characters—I know the main characters, they're my friends, I grew up with these people, I know them just like hanging out with my high school buddies—but keeping track of all the Aes Sedai, and the Wise Ones, and you know, the Asha'man, and all these various people that are all over the place and saying, "OK. Who is with Perrin and who is with Rand, and who is..."
Anyway. I sent an email off to Team Jordan. You know, Harriet and Maria and Alan who are the... They were two editorial assistants that worked directly with Robert Jordan. Maria and Alan. I think it was Alan I sent an email to, and I said, "Do you have just like a list of everybody? I can go compile one of my own, I'm planning to do it, but if you have one already that says, 'These are the people who are with Perrin.' If you've got something like that." And he said, "I found this thing in the notes buried several files in." And things like this. "Here. I found this. Maybe this is what you want." And he sent me this, and it was called "with Perrin." I thought, "OK. Perfect." I open up this file and it's actually not what I wanted. Instead it is dozens of names of people who haven't appeared in the books yet. These are all the names of all the Two Rivers folk who are with Perrin. Like there are two hundred or so. Just names. Listed off. That have never appeared in the books. Sometimes with their profession, and a little about them, and things like that. And it just blew my mind that there was all of this detail that Robert Jordan had put into this world that nobody sees—and he wasn't planning for them to see. He's not going to have a big list of names in the final book; he wasn't planning that. He just needed to know their names so that he knew that he had them. And this is the level of detail and world-building that Robert Jordan did. I got a big chuckle out of that. Just, list of names. Then I started stealing them like a thief so I had good names that he had come up with, that I could use in the books.
Are you using them for other characters or using them for people...
I'm mostly using them where he intended them to be. Because he had other lists of names for... As the book has progressed and I've discovered these little notes files... Because the notes, there are huge, massive amounts of notes. We say there are about two hundred manuscript pages of stuff done for Gathering...for A Memory of Light. The three books. But beyond that, there are hundreds of thousands of words worth of just background notes, of world-building notes, of things like that. When we say the notes for the book, we're talking about actual specifics to A Memory of Light. But there are hundreds of thousands of other notes; there's just too much for one person to even deal with. So I let the two assistants dig through that. And so once I found out that there were lists of names, I started getting those files so I could use his names in places where we had them. So that I would have to name fewer and fewer people. Because his naming conventions are very distinctive. And, you know, I don't think... I think if you were to read, you could probably tell which names are mine and which are his, because we name things differently. And I'm trying to use his wherever I can, just to give that right feel to the book.
They are right to worry, and I don't blame them at all. They have no assurance whatsoever that I won't ruin their book—the past has proven, I think, that series get ruined more than they get saved when a new author steps in.
I hope, very sincerely, to be in the second category, the one who saves a series rather than kills it. But only November will offer any proof other than my word, and I fully expect people to worry right up until they've read the novel.
The only preparation a person could really have for something like this was to be a lifelong fan. I think this book is good. I think it is VERY good. I'm not worried any more myself, though I was quite worried when I began.
What can I offer fans right now? Only the promise that the book has had Harriet and Mr. Jordan's assistants working from the beginning to make certain I didn't screw it up. Beyond that, I've made it my first priority to stay true to his wishes and notes, and not deviate unless there is a very, very good reason.
(The only times I've 'deviated' was in to offer more explanation or depth to a scene. I haven't cut anything he wanted to be in the book, save for a few places where he contradicted himself. I.E. There were some scenes where he said "I'm thinking of doing this or this" or "I'm thinking of doing this, but I don't know." In those places, I've made the final call.)
All I can ask is this. Give me a chance. Read the book. After that, we'll talk.
(The most stressful part is probably the realization that no matter what I do, I won't be able to please everyone. Robert Jordan couldn't do that himself. So I will fail some of you. But I hope to please the vast majority of you.)
Just to give you an idea of the depth of what's going on in these books, and the level of detail that Robert Jordan put into them: there was one point where I was working on a character, working on a scene. And I was just having trouble keeping track of all the characters that were involved in the scene, just all the different names and all the different personalities, and things like this.
So I emailed one of Robert Jordan's assistants, and I said, "Is there a file or something that explains everybody who's here that's going to be in the scene so that I can keep them all straight?" And a few minutes later I got back an email from Alan who said, "Well I found this, buried in some notes somewhere." And it said 'with. . . ', and then it listed the name of the character. And I’m like, oh good, it's a file called 'who's with this character'. That's exactly what I needed.
I opened it up, and what this file contained was a list of dozens and dozens, maybe hundreds, of names of people who hadn't yet appeared in the books, who were just members of this character's army, who were just there. Robert Jordan had named them all, and in many cases he'd listed their profession, a little bit about them, what they looked like. Now I had to keep track of all these other people who he hadn't even named yet. They hadn't even appeared in the book, fans didn't know about them, and I've got dozens of names of people to keep track of that he had spent the time to go through and say, all right, what are the names of all these people who might just walk by in the background.
So much detail, so much depth to these books, that really when you read these books you don't even know how much there was behind them, filling this out. Robert Jordan knew this world, he knew these people. He knew them so well that they were real to him.
Brandon, you are noted for your fairly concise epic novels. But I am curious about how the final volume of The Wheel of Time, which was envisioned by Robert Jordan as a final and single book, got to be so long? Not just a little longer but incredibly longer (possibly over 900,000 words).
1. Did Robert Jordan totally miscalculate the size his final book? Or didn't he get too far writing it and had no idea of how long it would be?
2. Is it including every note Jordan had on the subject because no one is sure what he really wanted to use?
3. Is it being turned into a self-contained trilogy because a lot of people (like me) haven't read the entire 11 book series (or by now have forgotten the story), and it has to include some back-story?
I've wondered this myself, actually, in some form. As a long time reader of the series, when he began saying it would be one book, I was very curious how he'd pull it off. And then I saw the notes, and I was left scratching my head a little bit.
It's not option three—I was doing a little bit more of this, but Harriet requested that I scale it back. Her opinion (and it was Robert Jordan's opinion) is that the series is much too long to spend time recapping in every book. She was right, and I trimmed a lot of it.
#2 might have some influence here. Robert Jordan could have chosen to cut out characters and leave out scenes he had in the notes; it doesn't feel right for me to do that.
But I think, overall, it's something that you didn't mention at all. Robert Jordan knew this was going to be a BIG book. He began promising it would be the last, but also that it would be so big that readers would need a cart to get it out of the store. I think he was planning a single, massive book at 800k words or so.
But he DID want it to be one book—partially, I suspect, because he knew his time was short. He wanted to get it done. If he hadn't been sick, however, I don't think he would have started calling this the last book.
Harriet has told me on several occasions that she didn't think he would have done it in one book, if he'd been given the freedom to approach the writing how he wanted. In the end, there is SO much to do that it was going to end up like this no matter what. Unless I crammed it all in and forgot about a lot of the characters.
Would Robert Jordan have been able to do it in one book? Really? I don't know. I think that, if he'd lived, he might have worked some magic and gotten it done in one 400 or 500k volume. But I feel the need to be very careful and not ruin this series by strangulation. It's not going to go on forever, but it does need a little room to breathe.
M.A.F.O—Maria and Find Out. What he did leave, he left a lot of stuff, there is discussion of these things in the notes. I need to look and see if there is an actual equation. He was very focused on strength of the Power and things like that. He has probably told you before, I think I’ve seen a copy of that on notes and things. He did leave scales on exactly how powerful each person is...
RAFO. Sorry, but we are doing an encyclopedia, and I have to reserve some things in case we want to put them in there.
His notes about Lews Therin, I would say are about middle extensive, comparatively of different things that he has notes on. Less than some, more than others. They were extensive enough that I know enough things you don't know to make me excited, but not so extensive that you know, you are ever going to see a book about Lews Therin or anything like that.
As a followup question, are the notes about Lews Therin the same notes about the voice of Lews Therin's?
You know I think that's enough of a spoiler because there is still confusion or not confusion, wondering from people whether or not Lews Therin is the voice, I mean, of course Semirhage said that it is...Robert Jordan never really made that explicit himself. What I think and what you think may be different and so we'll just leave it. There are things about this in the book.
We were told that Harriet has said that Jordan has left more in notes than in the series itself! Brandon then related a story about how he needed to know who was traveling with Perrin. He asked RJ’s assistants to look to see if there was a file with that info. A few days later he received an email titled “traveling with Perrin.” Unfortunately it listed every single person from the Two Rivers and their occupation who was traveling with Perrin. Some hadn’t even appeared in the books!
If you didn't hear the news, we got a call on Wednesday informing us that The Gathering Storm had hit the number one spot on the New York Times hardcover Best Seller list. This was accompanied by hitting number one on the independent bookseller's list and being the bestselling hardcover fiction book at Barnes & Noble and at Borders. (And at the last one, I believe, we were the overall #1 book regardless of genre, which is impressive.) We did, in fact, knock Dan Brown out of the #1 spot—by a wide margin.
How do I feel? Relieved. When I first began this project, my largest fear by far was that I would disappoint the fans. As I have stated before, I consider this your book and not mine. That doesn't mean I'm writing it to please the fans specifically—I'm writing these novels to be the best blasted books that they can be, narratively, structurally, and characterizationally. (Is that a word?) My goal is not to produce fan moments, per se, but to produce the best story possible, if that distinction makes any sense.
Either way, the last four Wheel of Time books had all hit #1, and I worried a lot that it would be on my watch where we failed to do so. It is a testament to the beloved nature of the series, mixed with the ardor of the readers, that we have weathered a change in authors without a dip. We actually outsold Knife of Dreams' first week, which is amazing.
The thing is, I don't feel I can take much—if any—credit for this. The reason this book turned out as well as it did (and thank you all for your kind emails, posts, and reviews) was because of the work Robert Jordan did before he passed away. He literally lay on his deathbead dictating scenes for you, too weak to write. He loved his readers dearly, and those of you lucky enough to meet him know that he was a truly kind and generous man.
Beyond that, the strength of this book is directly tied to the excellent storytelling that came before it. It doesn't take much experience with construction to realize that the foundation of a building is far more important—structurally—than the roof. Robert Jordan's skill with worldbuilding, characterization, and plotting was amazing. Working on these books has only increased my respect for his abilities.
None of you ran out to get the book because of me. My job was, and continues to be, to stay out of the way and let you enjoy the story that Robert Jordan wanted you to have. I am honored and humbled that so many of you have enjoyed the book. Thank you for what you have done in giving me a chance to prove myself to you.
Somewhere, Robert Jordan is smiling.
In my early years writing, it was hard. I finally got it right in Elantris. It was harder to write from other cultures, especially Aviendha and Tuon. It took three tries to get Aviendha right..."Aiel are weird."
Brandon describes Mat dealing with Tuon leaving as Mat having his feet knocked out from under him and says that in Robert Jordan's notes it says specifically that "Mat refuses to become husbandly".
It's actually not as simple as either of those options. The notes range in how detailed they are. In some places, he finished complete scenes, which is great. He finished several complete scenes, which will be scattered through the three books, including the ending itself.
In a number of places he gave dictations. Over his last few months, he spent a lot of time dictating to the family things that should happen. These are very interesting scenes in that they read kind of like a screenplay, because they transcribe the dictations. It's a lot of the dialogue, but it's him saying what should happen instead of actually writing it out. "And then, Egwene says this, and then he says this, and then this happens." And so the description isn't there, but the dialogue and the blocking all are. As I said, like a screenplay.
In other places, there are fragments of scenes, where he wrote a couple of paragraphs, and then another couple of paragraphs. And just like a shattered plate, there are pieces missing. In other places, there are sentences he's written, "and then this happens"—where "this" is a sequence of four chapters' worth of events. In other places, he left a paragraph or two, and in some places there’s just a big hole. There're characters here and there, and then there are a lot of really detailed notes for the ending, saying where everyone ends up, who lives and who dies—it's very detailed, and is where I think the bulk of the material is. But sometimes, we'll know where someone is at the end of Knife of Dreams, and then at the ending he says that person is doing something else, but the intervening space is a big hole.
No, but I'd like to.
We're in a little better shape. Jim actually finished scenes. We have a lot more to work with. He wrote the end himself! He left landmarks to follow from here to the end. Not specific details, just "strong stuff" to get us to the end.
"There are no characters that we don't know how they end up."
Brandon told the story of his selection as the WoT-completing author.
He read a few pages from the opening of the Prologue (which he also emphatically stated was all Jordan's material, much of it word-for-word).
He described "The Materials", the variety of forms of notes, completed scenes, paragraphs, fragments, audio dictations, etc. that were collected by RJ's assistants after his passing and basically dumped in Brandon's lap. Daunting isn't in it.
You saw where we were going…
...yes, I see where you are going...
...I had to do the build up to it because it all comes down to that one question for a couple of things.
This one question you are going to ask next?
I’m not going to ask it...
...oh, the one you asked…
...yeah, I guess I asked a piece of it last night...
...when it comes to this certain character that you are talking about, there is a whole thing where Maria and I exchanged a bunch of emails about this. She had managed to pull some things out of the notes that I had not seen, which is interesting, because I was going off of something else. I did not think that Cyndane should be nearly as powerful as she was put in the books as being, so I had been under the belief that the Dark One was pulling shenanigans...
...like a little, in essence, let’s say what the Forsaken Lanfear did to Asmodean, you thought maybe the Dark One was doing some similar...shielding...
...or the other way around…here is a little extra power you can draw upon while I am pleased with you, I can take this away...
...that is a question...let’s jump to that question, there have been some theories that talk about Lanfear...
...let’s back up and say I was wrong. I was interpreting the notes a certain way. Maria was able to pull something out that I had not seen that made it clear that I had misinterpreted and that that is not the case, Cyndane is not under any shenanigans. What you see is what you get.
Cyndane and her alter ego have never been under any shenanigans?
I’m not going to say never been under any shenanigans, but when you see her creating a gateway she is legitimately powerful enough to do it, which I did not believe that she was. Does that make sense? This is all digging into my read of the notes versus and Maria’s read of the notes and Maria was right. She was able to provide information to me that I had not seen which is nice because it was stuff that was very pertinent for what I am working on right now. It would have come out eventually when I would have sent her the scenes I’m working on, but it came out earlier, which is nice. Once I found out what was going on it all made perfect sense.
So, we will understand then in the next book or so why there is a decrease in power but not a significant decrease?
Ok, so that being said there are some theories out there that in the Age of Legends, at one point, Lanfear might have...
...let’s just say I have not said that Lanfear and Cyndane are the same person...
...Oh, absolutely, I’m jumping to this other Forsaken that we are talking about...
...this other completely different person...Uh huh...
...so Lanfear, the theory goes, that maybe she was accentuated from a beauty and/or power perspective by going to the Finnland previously...
...would the Finns have the ability to accentuate someone’s beauty and/or quantity or access to the One Power through their own capabilities and talents?
Yes, but it might involve third party ter’angreal, angreal, this sort of thing...
...so, they don’t have power to affect the soul’s capability of increasing its total channeling?
Certainly not permanently, as far I understand, that is outside the realm of their ability…
...from a beauty perspective can they affect the outer body of some individual?
I would say that, yes they can, but they may have to be using some type of ter’angreal or...
...some item of power?
Some item of power, something like that...of which they have great stores...[what???]
...Really...heh, so the obvious question, where did the Finns get great stores of ter’angreal, angreal, and is that part of the Pact they made.?
RAFO...but if you just think about it, we don’t even have to go to the notes for this if you think about it logically, we know of them providing certain items of power to certain individuals that they were able to match very nicely with certain requests very easily. If you run the statistics on that its either a huge coincidence or they have very many to choose from.
My job has constantly evolved. First there was fanmail and filing. Then the audiobook project got underway, and someone had to go through and mark all of the changes in point of view so that Michael Kramer could read the male POVs and Kate Reading could read the female ones. Jim decided that I could do that, so, much to my delight, I was getting paid to read The Wheel of Time. I was in hog heaven, of course. At that time, Jim was finishing up A Crown of Swords, and when the proofs came in, Harriet suggested that I assist in going through them, but Jim said no, he didn't want to spoil me. I was crushed. Over the next year or so, though, my job broadened. He gave me the in-house glossary to tidy up, and some of his notes to consolidate. He also would give me lists of questions like "Has character A ever met Character B?" and "Give me three examples of character C's speech" and "Find me all of the information you can on what a baby feels as he's being born." By the time he had The Path of Daggers ready to give to Harriet for editing, I had convinced him that I could help with maintaining our house glossary going forward, and he decided that I would get the pages at the same time Harriet did. Harriet encouraged me to edit as well, and I would do that and pass the pages on to her. I don't know if any of my edits made it into the final book, but Harriet did begin recommending me for freelance editing.
I did other things as well. Jim had a massive personal library, and mentioned that he would love for it to be cataloged; I cobbled together a classification system, using WordPerfect mail merge. I also cataloged his music collection, and kept the existing catalog of movies updated. I did shopping for him, arranged appointments, worked on the Wizards of the Coast RPG and the New Spring comics. When the new cat went missing, I made and put up posters in the neighborhood (we found her hiding under the house, eventually); when cranes and herons started stealing goldfish, I was given fox urine to spread around the pond to discourage them (Jim did encourage me to delegate; I managed to pass that one on to someone else. It smelled so bad that that idea was soon abandoned and we covered the fish pond with a net. I still sometimes find huge birds staring hungrily at the fish when I walk out there). Eventually I took over the bookkeeping as well. He took to calling me his right arm. Over time, I picked up assistants, two of whom are still with me: Marcia Warnock, who took over the book catalog, spread the fox urine, keeps me in office supplies, handles all the annoying phone calls, and keeps me on schedule; and Alan Romanczuk, who took over the questions and research, became our IT specialist, and assists with the bookkeeping, among many other things.
Then, after the Knife of Dreams tour, Jim was diagnosed with amyloidosis. Our focus changed somewhat; we all worked to help him and Harriet as much as we could. After the night that Jim told the ending to Wilson and Harriet, I would sit and talk with him about the end of the series, with a tape recorder running. The last thing that we did together was select the winners of the calendar art contest. Note: I didn't select, I just gave him the art and took notes, and then emailed the winning names to Tor. That was two days before his death.
The significant thing that has changed about my job since then is that Jim isn't here. It's quieter—there is no big, booming voice calling "Maria!" or singing as he comes in the office. There's no one explaining military stuff to me and making it really clear and interesting. There's no one sitting at his desk wearing a silly hat. What I do at my job hasn't changed that much. Now I work directly for Harriet, who is as wonderful a boss as Jim was. When Brandon has questions about the books, I work on finding answers, as does Alan. When Brandon sends us a book, I go through it looking for continuity errors, just as I did with Jim, and suggesting other changes, just as before. I still do the bookkeeping with Alan's help, and other banal stuff. I know a lot more fans now, of course; I went to JordanCon, DragonCon, and the Charleston and New York booksignings for The Gathering Storm. I can hardly wait until JordanCon 2, which as I type is 11 weeks and 1 day away.
Sanderson felt honored and overwhelmed at the same time. Although he was a respected and prolific fantasy writer with a growing career, his name on a Wheel of Time book would introduce him to hordes of new readers and send him to the top of the best-seller lists for weeks. But he would have to take time off from his own ambitious epics, and he faced a huge challenge: To be true to Jordan's work while retaining his own distinctive style.
Sanderson wrestled with the question for a long time before deciding that he would concentrate on keeping the character voices authentic and consistent. "We don't want these stories to become about Brandon," he says, "but in the same way, the original Wheel of Time books ... weren't about Jim. They were about the story and the characters. As long as I can make the characters feel right and do the story the right way, I think it will turn out all right."
Sanderson made it his "prime directive" to make sure the characters sounded like their old selves. "My second rule was that if Jim said it, the default is to do it as he said, to put it in as he said. And then rule No. 3 is that I can contradict rule No. 2 if it's necessary for the storytelling."
By considering these three rules, Sanderson ensured that Rigney's story was told consistently. "I'm continually going back and reading Jim's original notes and his previous books," says the author, "balancing that with looking at what I think he was trying to do, what he said he was trying to do, and what would make the best story. In some cases I trust my instincts as a writer, and in other cases I just say, 'This is what Jim said. We're doing it.' I can't really tell you where I draw the line, when I do one or the other. Oftentimes when the situation comes up, I'll write to Harriet and her assistants and say, 'What do you think?'"
McDougal's association had its own complications. As the book progressed, she would send her reactions to Sanderson. These didn't always equate with his own ideas or those of Simons and Romanczuk. "I've learned not to do that horrible thing to Brandon," she says. "Three different people were giving him different reactions. We weren't all on the same page."
After this wonderful panel, we had an amazing treat. As many of us know, before Robert Jordan died, he spent one evening and the better part of the next day telling his close family/friends exactly how A Memory of Light goes, and they captured it on tape. Alan, being the computer whiz he is, cleaned up the first 17 minutes of audio, and we got to listen to it. Aside from Robert Jordan's preamble that he would be talking mostly out of order as things came to him, he said "but I will start with the prologue." We then were treated to the Great Bard himself telling us the first scene of The Gathering Storm.
Now, I know exactly what people are hoping for here, and I am going to say: no. Aside from the fact that no recording devices were allowed in the room for legal reasons, I know that I myself could not do justice to what I heard. It would be a cruel parody and fall short. I trust Brandon will have translated the scene description we heard into wonderful prose, but what we heard was exactly that, a description of action and scene, not the text we will all see soon enough, and that should only ever be in Robert Jordan's voice. So, sorry guys and gals, you had to be there.
But, I will tell you this: our reaction. When it was finished, the room gave a standing ovation. This, of course, was expected and not spectacular from us. What was, though, was that when the clapping stopped, we all sat down, and dead silence filled the room, even though we knew the reading/panel was done, and even still after Harriet and Alan said "that's it." We did not know what to do with ourselves, our brains were churning and wheeling and grinding over what we heard, and many people left with tears in their eyes. I still get goose-bumps just thinking and writing about it.
Immediately after this was what was billed in the program as "A Reading from A Memory of Light", and the panelists listed were Harriet—and Robert Jordan. I may have been the last person to clue into what this meant. I had assumed that Harriet was going to read something from the book that Jordan had written.
What I got was quite different.
Wilson was there, too, and got up and told us how, a few weeks before Mr. Rigney died, Wilson was sitting with him when Mr. Rigney suddenly began to talk. He was describing a scene, and as soon as Wilson realized what he was hearing he jumped up and ran into the next room and got Harriet and Maria, so they could take notes, and dashed to Wal-Mart to buy audio recording equipment. Because Robert Jordan was telling them the end of the story.
I don't mind telling you, when I realized they were going to play some of the audio recording for us, I got chills.
Wilson told us that what we were about to hear was recorded twenty days before Mr. Rigney passed, and is a description of a scene in the Prologue of A Memory of Light. I'm not sure, but it may be the very first scene in the book. You could have heard a pin drop in the room when he sat down next to Harriet and started the recording.
I can't claim that I specifically remember what Mr. Rigney's voice sounded like when I met him five years ago, but I would have remembered if it had sounded any different from what a big, self-assured man generally sounds like, so hearing what he had sounded like near the end was something of a shock. The voice on the tape was hoarse and cracked and exhausted and determined, and altogether... I hesitate to use the word "eerie", for fear it seems disrespectful, but, well, I can't think of another way to describe it. Combined with the scene he was actually describing, which was entirely for the purpose of creating a sense of ominous foreboding, the effect was... I don't know what it was.
The scene was simple, with largely nameless characters who are unlikely to appear in the larger narrative, starting with a farmer sitting on his porch, watching a cloud bank in the distance, one which is behaving in a manner unlike any clouds the farmer had ever seen before. I won't go into more detail (though it may be that others will), because we were asked beforehand not to employ recording devices, and though a written summary is certainly not breaking that rule, I feel that I should adhere to the spirit of the request. And besides, a written summary wouldn't do it justice.
The thing I remember most was the repeated phrase: "The storm is coming. The storm is coming." He said that over and over again.
I had choked up the moment the recording started, and by the time it was over, I was unabashedly in tears. This may seem like a rather strong reaction, but perhaps it is a little explained when I tell you that by entirely random coincidence, Mr. Rigney had died barely a month before my own father did; my father was only a year older than Mr. Rigney, too.
Meaningless coincidence this may be, but grief doesn't truck much with logic, and... and I don't have much more to say on that topic. Let's just say it struck a raw place, and leave it at that.
All other considerations aside, whatever else I felt at that moment, I also feel privileged to have been there for it.
Fortunately for this con-goer, there was a ball later that evening. With a bar.
It actually has not been that bad to date because Jim himself set up so many timelines as part of the series. It was fun going back in his files and finding literally dozens of timelines of what was going to happen. With his engineer's mind, it was important for him to grasp where every single character was at any given time in the series, know how they were meshing at any specific time in order to allow them to come together as part of the story later on and not be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So, it was really just a matter of seeing where he was going with things and how he had structured them and tapping into that and then just extending it. You know, the harder part now is that Jim is gone, and so we have to make sure that all these threads fit. You have to know how far a horse can travel in a day, and how far a cart can travel in a day, how far an army can travel in a day, and how many days they can keep that pace. "Oh, Mat has to be at such-and-such a place to be able to meet with this person who is coming in from a totally different area." So there is a lot of taking out the ruler and looking at the map and seeing how many kilometers or miles are between point A and point B.
In some ways, and in some ways it has also been very nice. I am a writer who works from an outline. What I generally do when I build an outline is I find focal, important scenes, and I build them in my head and I don't write them yet, but I build towards them. Well, in this case, a lot of those important focal scenes, Robert Jordan has outlined or written himself. So, I've actually been able to build an outline out of his notes that works very much the way that I work on outlines anyway.
The notes themselves are very interesting to work with. They are so very varied, so to speak. There is just so much there. In some cases we have scenes that he wrote. In some cases we have scenes that he talks about and his assistants wrote down what he said about them. In some cases, we have interviews that he did with his assistants through the years when he was sick, where he was just talking about the last book and they were asking questions. He dictated some scenes on his death bed. In other cases, we have things that his assistants remember him saying that they just wrote down after he passed away, everything they could remember. Other cases we have outlines that he was working from for the book. And this is just all in a big jumble that was handed to me, not in really any order, and they just said, "put this in order, do what you need to do." They gave me the tools to write the book and left me to write it, working through all of these things.
No, it's not surprising that the fan response has not been 100% positive—in fact, if it were, that would be kind of suspicious. Sometime, look up Hamlet on Amazon and read the one-star reviews. If people can't agree on Hamlet, they're not going to agree on my books.
As for the less-than-positive reactions, they range from completely useless to very helpful. But it's dangerous to look at reviews of any sort while I'm writing. As writers we tend to focus on the negative and ignore the positive. It's just human nature. Beyond that, a writer has to walk a very tight line between keeping an audience in mind and following their own artistic vision for a work.
Now, these books are different in that—as I've mentioned before—I feel more beholden to the fan community than I otherwise might. These books belong to them more than they do to me. But I learned early on in my writing career that if I tried to do everything for everyone, the writing process would fail. So, it's more useful for me (on things like this book) to have people close to me watch the reviews/reactions and pass issues on to me when there seems to a consensus of opinions. Those are the types of things I find it important to keep in mind when writing.
In the end, however, there is one opinion on these books that matters the most. That is Harriet's opinion. I look to her for guidance on characters, tone, and plotting. I will continue to do so. I think her hand on the book, mixed with Robert Jordan's notes, were the main reason the novel turned out so well.
The first one you've already read. It occurs in The Gathering Storm, and it involves someone's backside. Which is not, you know, it's very appropriate to the Wheel of Time, but I don't generally write spankings into my books. And so, I actually said, "I have to write a spanking scene?!?" All right, make it the best spanking scene ever!
The other scene has not come up yet so I can't tell you what it is. It was just a "wow." It was kind of that, "How did I miss that?" in part, and also a "I really need to make this really work really well." And anyway, I can tell you about that next year.
When you first started work on the Wheel of Time what was the first thing you looked up in the notes/material?
Asmodean's killer. After that, I read the ending.
Did the notes squash/support any of your theories/ideas of where the books were going? Are you able to tell us what or how?
Yes. It did both. Some things were supported, some things were squashed, and some things I just didn't have any personal theories on. I can't speak of many of them. I'm trying to remember which ones were in The Gathering Storm that I can talk about. I did think that there was a good chance—or at least I hoped and theorized—that Elaida would end up as a damane. And I was very happy to see that. I was taken completely by surprise by the Verin revelation. Most of the things that were squashed happen in the next two books, so I can't really talk about them. And it's very hard to look back and say, "What were my theories, and what did I think about things?" because it's been three years now since I first looked at the notes and I already have all of that in my head.
Oh, I can tell you one thing that was squashed. To be perfectly honest, I'd always secretly suspected that Asmodean was still around, and that was totally squashed. So there you go. Part of me always thought, “Oh, Robert Jordan isn't telling us because Asmodean is around; he's doing something," but no, he's just dead. He's totally dead. But you know, I think Robert Jordan had even confirmed that and I hadn't seen the interviews until after I started working on the series. I'm pretty sure that somewhere out there is a Robert Jordan confirmation, a "He's toast" comment.
How difficult has weaving Towers of Midnight around The Gathering Storm been? Is there a large amount of inter-connectivity? Do we cross back on any events in The Gathering Storm?
Yes, we do cross back on events in The Gathering Storm. The trickiest part was timeline. Robert Jordan had this innate ability to juggle timelines. This is not something he relied on Maria, Alan, or Harriet for; it was something he did on his own, just part of the genius of his brain. All of us are pretty new at this. I mean, I wrote Mistborn chronologically. There wasn’t any time juggling. There was time juggling to do in Elantris, but it was across the course of a single novel. It didn’t get as extensive. For the Wheel of Time, timeline things that Robert Jordan kept in his head are quite incredible, and I have to admit that I’m not as good at it as he was. Perhaps someday I will be able to get to that level, but for now I’m simply not. So working with the timeline has taken a lot of effort. I think we’ve got it so it all worked out. It took a lot of help. Maria, Alan, and others all worked together with me to get things arranged—some of our beta readers were extremely helpful in this—but there is a lot of juggling back and forth. You will see some events from different perspectives. It is not a complete jump back like book ten was. I would say that the book is mostly new material with a few glances at other things that are happening, but we’re moving forward; I’d say 60% of the book is taking place past what happened in The Gathering Storm. And then there’s one timeline in particular where we jump back and catch up—that’s Perrin’s timeline. But it was really challenging.
Will there be prequels or books about the Age of Legends?
Brandon stated he didn't want WOT to be like Star Wars with books telling scattered stories, but would like to do the prequels that RJ planned about Tam and Moiraine, and possibly the outriggers about Mat and Tuon as well (but not the other planned series, Infinity of Heaven).
He did mention the forthcoming WOT encyclopedia, and how extensive RJ's notes were—when he asked for a file on Perrin, he got notes that included 50 people from the Two Rivers who never even appeared in the books.
Jordan had been the big fantasy sensation of the 90s. His mega-series The Wheel Of Time began as a five-book cycle, then was expanded to a projected 12 books on the back of massive sales and critical acclaim. Each individual book was vast. The gaps between books slowly got longer and longer as Jordan struggled with gargantuan plot machinery, a cast of thousands and failing health.
He died in 2007, still working on the final volume, and McDougal, having been impressed by the Mistborn books, phoned Sanderson and asked whether he would be interested in finishing off the series from Jordan's notes.
I know it's premature to discuss this, but I am entertaining fond hopes that after you finish A Memory of Light, you will publish a WoT companion, which will include things like:
—All the notes and details and backstory which never got put into the novels.
—Deleted chapters, or longer draft versions of scenes which had to be edited down.
—An account of the writing process as you experienced it, with perhaps an outline of the books showing how much of each part was yours and how much RJ's, and the difficult decisions you had to make at each point.
—Alternative chapters or scenes which were discarded.
—Answers to any issues which are still disputed by fandom after the last book.
I know this is premature, but I was hoping you could at least tell us if 1) Is this something you, personally, would be willing to do? 2) Is there any chance of it actually happening?
Excellent question. I've spoken on this a little bit before. It is something I'd be willing to do; in fact, it's something I want to do.
I don't want to say that the chances of it happening are poor, but one thing you have to understand is that Harriet is very careful and cautious with Robert Jordan's legacy, and rightly so. You may have heard, for instance, that at the first JordanCon she allowed us to play the tape of him dictating a scene from the prologue of The Gathering Storm, but she asked for it not to be recorded, and she doesn't really want it to be played again. It was just that one time for that special event. People asked her why, and her response was that she didn't want people to remember Robert Jordan in his weakest hours. I think that is a very valid point.
So the decision will be Harriet's. I haven't even approached her about this yet, because I don't think it's the appropriate time. But once the series is done and we've had some time away from it, I will ask her if it's all right if I do something like this.
It would include a lot of the things you mention. Specifically what I want to do is talk about the writing process and the difficult decisions that you mention, some of the scenes that didn't end up in the books, some of the things that Robert Jordan had written as potential scenes. I've mentioned before that in his notes he would often have comments where he says, "I will either do this, or this," and sometimes the options are very contradictory. He had not yet decided between them, and I ended up being the one who decided which one we were going to do. So I would include those and some of the actual notes.
The reason Harriet may not want this to happen is that if his final publication is unfinished notes, that might make her uncomfortable. I certainly intend to make a plea for the importance of this from a scholarly standpoint, that people might be able to have access to this, and also so that the notes are there for people who don't like my interpretation of things, so they can see exactly what Robert Jordan had to say. I'm really hoping we can do it, but let's wait until the series is done and then I'll approach Harriet about it.
I'm gonna RAFO that. Because that's talking too much about the core soul of what the book is. And honestly, you're going to have to decide that. I'm going to have to see what people think of it after I write it, if that makes sense. I don't think I can armchair decide if people are going to feel that this is . . . how people are going to feel this is. It's going to be a good book, and it will feel slightly different from Gathering Storm and slightly different from Towers of Midnight, just like each book in the series has felt slightly different than those before them.
There are a lot of loose ends to tie up, though Robert Jordan has in his notes specifically several to not tie up. He says, 'this does not get resolved'. And so those will not be resolved. He wanted the world to keep on living and breathing even after the series was done. We are tying up pretty much everything that he did not tell us not to tie up, if my double negative worked there. And so the pace is going to be fairly quick-paced is basically what I can say, but I don't want to say anything more than that.
The ending itself was already written by Robert Jordan, and it is a fantastic ending. The notes that Robert Jordan left include a quite extensive list of what happens to each major character, and I'm writing their fates according to his wishes.
It will definitely be hard to know that when the final book comes out, we won't be seeing any more of these characters who we have come to love since the first book came out. But it would have been much harder if we never got to see the end that Robert Jordan had planned. I'm honored to have had the chance to get inside the characters' heads for a couple of years, though it's still a bit sad for me that I don't get to read a new Wheel of Time book at the same time everyone else does.
RAFO. ... That one’s mostly a MAFO. I’ll be honest. That’s a question I should have looked at.
Yeah, I figured it was; I was hoping actually to catch Maria on that one. That was from Wetlander from tor.com.
Oh, was it? Hi Wetlander! That’s one I should know. I’m pretty sure it’s in there somewhere. That’s one I should have looked up, but I’ve just never looked it up. So...
A quote from the notes: "For the men, it would have been at least partly a matter of blackmail. They are distrusting of Rand, and also of Taim to various degrees; none thinks it's safe to go back to the Black Tower; they are known in Cairhien as men who can channel, and also elsewhere, making them marked to an extent, at least on their own."
So it wasn't anything really hidden, it was just "let us bond you and we'll help you; otherwise you’re all on your own." And it was Hopwil, not Manfor, who was in the first group bonded.
I took the three names from Taim's list of "deserters" given to Rand by Logain in Crossroads of Twilight, Chapter 24; Cadsuane wasn't too specific: "Blackmail was a tool she disliked using, but she had already used it on the three Asha'man..." That was in Winter's Heart Chapter 13; she told Rand about the three bonded Asha'man in Chapter 25, and indeed Karldin Manfor was not among those three.
(reading) When did Lan (LAHN) first become...oh, Lan (rhymes with pan), sorry. I hear all these names at JordanCon, and half of them pronounce them one way, and half of them the other way, and I end up getting bad habits.
Yeah. I don’t care.
Yeah, but Robert Jordan cared, so I try to care.
So is it Lahn or Lan?
Okay, good, because that’s how I pronounce it.
As far as I know—someone could correct me—it’s Lan, but Lan was one of those ones that—I believe—some major source had wrong. I could be completely wrong on this. I know Tar Valon (Tar va-LAHN), one major source had wrong, meaning an audiobook reader, or an original typo in one of the glossaries, or something, which really itched at Jim as I understand because he really wanted it to be Tar va-LAHN and not Tar VA-lun. So...when did Lan first become a blademaster? Well...between New Spring and The Eye of the World.
Wait, didn't he...he wasn't a blademaster in New Spring, was he? No...
Not that I'm aware of. And Ryne was better than him then at that time, so...
Yeah. So, somewhere in between those two. I suspect that was one of the things that Jim wanted to do in the prequel.
Right. Because there was definitely not a big deal made of it when he killed Toram Riatin.
Okay, the notes say that Lan became a blademaster before he turned 20, which would have been before New Spring. My thoughts on this are that Lan got his sword at an early age, and worked really hard with it, and was judged a blademaster by five blademasters sometime pretty early on. It's not mentioned specifically that I can find in New Spring, but it makes sense to me.
I have no idea.
(laughs) I didn't figure you would.
That's a pretty random question. I don't even think that's in the notes; I'll be honest with you....that's really not the sort of thing Jim put in his notes, so I'm guessing...I can MAFO that one, if you want to ask Maria, but I really don't know.
I don't know either.
I read somewhere that RJ said the final story wasn't set in stone, and was fluid depending of circumstances, feelings, etc. Are the notes that he left older notes from the beginning (original thoughts), or newer notes from right before he passed (changed from his feeling in the beginning of the series)?
RJ never actually said that; see the tags for 'the last scene' and 'how will it end?' to see what RJ did say about it (mostly that the outcome was entirely set in stone, but some of the details on how to get there were not).
I have both. There is a lot of flexibility, because often he implied things like: "I'll do this, or maybe this. The tone I'm looking for is this. Make it feel that way."
Some are hardfast. He wrote the last scene of the series, for example.
Did RJ leave notes intending that somebody else would finish the series? Or are they notes to himself?
Most of the notes were to himself. A large chunk are things he dictated on his death bed in the last weeks, after changing his mind and asking Harriet to find someone. (Originally, he had not wanted anyone to finish it for him.) Some of those dictations are directed more at me.
I'm not just filling in holes. At the same time, I'm trying hard to keep anything RJ said in mind, and trying to make the book fit his vision.
It's a tough balance. There is a lot of work to be done, depending on the character in question. For example, for The Gathering Storm, he left a lot on Egwene, but less on Rand. In Towers of Midnight, a lot on Mat, less on Perrin. He left a lot of notes on how everyone should end up after the Last Battle, but often didn't say how they'd get there.
One of the things I've been impressed by is this: Harriet and Tor could have hired a ghost writer and pretended that RJ finished the book before he died. People would have believed them. However, while a ghost writer could have imitated RJ's voice, Harriet felt she wanted a fantasy novelist to do it. First, to be honest to the fans. Second, because there was enough work to be done that the person couldn't just connect dots, but would actually have to build parts of the story.
She gave me complete creative freedom to do what needed to be done, with the understanding that she would edit. (If you don't know, Harriet is one of the 'greats' in sf/f editing. She edited Ender's Game, for example, and may of the big fantasy and sf authors during the 70s and 80s. She discovered RJ, edited him, then married him.)
So, when I go wrong, she is there to push me the right direction. It's hard to answer a question of how much is me, and how much is RJ. His fingers are on every scene, as I'm trying to match the character voices (but not his writing style exactly) and get them right. Most scenes come from at least a comment in the notes here or there, and for some, he left a paragraph or two explanation. For others, he wrote the entire thing.
For some, I'm building it from the ground up, taking where the character was at the end of Knife of Dreams and giving them a story that earns them the ending RJ mentioned for them.
As I understand, if you are 'spun out' you do not respond to the call of the Horn. So no Cain showing up if it is sounded again, as he's been spun out.
As you understand it? Isn't your understanding more or less canon at this point?
No, it's not his world or book series. He can misunderstand something just as well as the next guy.
Not saying he did here, but just 'cuz he's finishing the series doesn't mean, for example, he can retcon or change anything or do "whatever he wants or thinks".
No of course not. But if there are two ways to understand something (that RJ has written) wouldn't it be up to Sanderson to decide which of those he believes to be right?
So if he thinks that when he's spun out he wont respond to the Horn, no one can ever prove him wrong (there are nothing in the books to contradict this), so wouldn't his understanding be the "right" one?
Here's the thing. There are three million+ words of notes, and RJ changed his mind about a lot of things as he wrote, explored, and made decisions. (He talked about this being his process. He saw the Wheel of Time as an organic thing.) So any time I speak on an issue like this, there's the chance that Maria (his assistant) will come to me and say "Actually, Brandon, he changed his mind on that. Look here for the revision." Half the time, it's something he mentioned in passing to her, Harriet, or Alan and isn't even written down.
So...on things I think I know, but haven't confirmed with Team Jordan yet, I usually add some wiggle room. My knowledge is far from absolute. Fortunately, everything in the books I write gets fact-checked a half dozen times. (Even then, some of my mistakes slip through.)
Because of the nature of RJ's notes and writing process, there are a lot of things I can (and was told I should) change. Harriet didn't say specifically "Change this." She told me "Jim (RJ) would not have done it exactly like this. You do what you think is best for the story first—that is your primary charge. Don't feel completely beholden to his notes, but respect his story."
That's kind of how I've done it. If the notes say something that I feel needs to change, I change it, but try to be respectful. An example is Egwene's dinner with Elaida. RJ had this planned as a single event. I split it into two chapters, separated by further discovery by Egwene and growth to earn the second half of the dinner.
There are many things like that. Places where RJ said "I'm going to do this, or maybe I'll do this, or maybe neither." I choose what fits for the story. It's usually one of the two, sometimes neither one works. I can be more specific once the last book is out.
That said, I wasn't particularly hip on writing Cadsuane spanking Semirhage. There was no good reason to change it, though. Jim had outlined the scene, and it was in line with the characters.
Have you ever considered writing a book (or something) about the writing of the WoT?
I'd like to hear more about the process of compiling Jordan's notes and filling in the gaps. I'd also be really interested in seeing the manuscripts you started with from him and the final product.
You know, it's really like becoming stepfather to 30 million people at the same time. The fans, number one, have been great. And they know that before Robert Jordan passed away, he asked his wife to find somebody because he wanted the series completed. And so, everyone knows that this is according to his wishes, which I think helps a whole lot. But at the same time, I feel a deep responsibility to not make these books about me, but to make them about Robert Jordan and about the Wheel of Time. I mean, I was handed a lot of very fascinating notes. In some cases, Robert Jordan had completed scenes for the books. In other cases, he had dictated on his deathbed some scenes that were to happen. He had millions of words of notes about the world and the characters and the setting, and I've been given access to all of that and asked to put together these last concluding volumes.
He'd been promising people for years and years and years that he knew the last scene of the very last book. And he actually wrote that before he passed away, and I have that in my possession. And so my goal is really to get us there without screwing it up. To step out of the way, to let the characters be themselves, and to let the world continue and the story continue as people have loved for so many years. And make sure that. . . I don't want them to see Brandon, I want them to see the Wheel of Time. And so, that's been a real challenge, to get out of the way, so to speak.
Will the material written for A Memory of Light by Jordan remain intact in the published novel or will you rewrite it to match your on style of writing?
I am leaving it as intact as possible. In some places, a paragraph at the beginning or end of a section has to be changed to streamline it into the rest of the narrative. In others, line edits have to be done (mostly by Harriet) to fix the language. (Nothing we have from him is in more than a rough draft form.)
But where I can, I'm not changing anything. Because of this, readers who look very closely might be able to tell where I wrote and where he wrote. But I don't think it is noticeable without detailed scrutiny.
I suggest to readers that they read the book straight through the first time without trying to pick out which piece was written by which author. I'm hoping to get permission to speak more specifically about how it was all divided once the three books are all out. Then, you can know for certain. But for now, I would prefer (and I'm certain Mr. Jordan would prefer) that you see through the prose and enjoy the story.
WOT question: Did you go through ALL the notes from RJ on the Wheel of Time (if that is even humanly possible) or just those related to A Memory of Light?
Mr. Jordan left behind notes for the series which, word-length wise, is in EXCESS of the length of the written novels. That was just too much for me to handle. I've used Mr. Jordan's assistants for fetching information from these reserves, and have focused most of my efforts on the notes specifically left for A Memory of Light. The Guide has been very helpful. But mostly, if I need to know something from the notes, I send Maria and Alan searching while I work on the actual prose.
WOT questions: Will all three A Memory of Light books feature Rand, Mat, and Perrin?
Short answer: Yes.
Longer answer: They will all three appear in all three books, but it will not be equally balanced. Some characters will be more of a focus in some of the books, and other will be more of a focus in others. This is particularly true of the first two volumes, where I had to juggle which characters would be a focus in one, and which will be a focus in the other.
I tried to keep story arcs contained in a single book. We'll get glimpses from some of the characters in the first book, with a more complete story arc in the second book. And we'll get story arcs in the first book from some characters, followed by glimpses in the second.
The split actually turned out really well. I think I managed to get a balance working where characters don't vanish for entire volumes, but we still get to have complete character arcs.
Well, I'm off on my tour. The Alloy of Law release party was a blast, even though the bookstore was a little light on copies. We managed to get everyone a book, I think. So huzzah, and forward.
One of the things I announced yesterday on Twitter and Facebook was another Great Hunt to coincide with my tour. If you aren't familiar with it, this is a concept from the Wheel of Time books which I (very loosely) adapted into a scavenger hunt to hold while on tour. I leave codes hidden around the world for Wheel of Time fans to locate, and they collectively input them into a web page which slowly unlocks text for everyone to see. (You can read a recap of last year's Great Hunt here.)
I have some thirty codes to reveal, hide, or otherwise give out while on tour this time. I may hide some inside books in certain bookstores. I might give them to individuals (like Tor employees) for safe keeping, and require you to figure out who they are. Or, perhaps, you might have to do something else. Whatever strikes me.
Before we go farther, however, some ground rules:
1. The codes are inside envelopes this year, with a label requesting that a bookstore employee NOT open the envelope and read the code over the phone. I'll probably prepare the bookstore employees for what is coming. You are required to fetch the codes yourself, or at least send someone you personally know to get the code. I don't want you bothering employees of any store—whether it be bookstores or someone from a store next door—to do the work for you. They aren't being paid to fetch codes. If you know someone in the area and can send them, go for it. Avoid bothering strangers.
2. All but four of the codes need to be entered in order to reveal the secret, but each one inputted will reveal small bits. This is a collective endeavor. Share information, work together. Once you find a code, input it on this page. Everyone else, feel free to watch the page and try to figure out what the secret is going to be as more is revealed.
3. It is okay to try to guess codes. They have something in common. In a way, they are some fun information themselves.
4. If you want to get involved, both Theoryland and Dragonmount (among others) are likely to have threads where you can post, participate, and see what codes have been found and what others have been tried. You can follow the hunt's progress by searching for the hashtag #wotgh on Twitter.
Now, as to the secret itself, I feel I should manage some expectations. Last year, we revealed a chapter from the upcoming Wheel of Time book. There are no chapters that are ready this time; they're all in first-draft stage. So the secret this time will not be something quite so earth-shattering. (Sorry.)
I still think it is cool, though it is more in the 'cool curiosity' category rather than the 'sneak peek' category. This is something that was written by Robert Jordan himself, and is taken directly from his notes. People have frequently asked us to show some of the notes, and Harriet agreed to let us show you this chunk. It is illustrative of the kinds of things you'd find in the notes themselves.
So, swear the hunter's oath and get to it! Let's have some fun. I plan to give away some of these in each city I visit, so UK Wheel of Time fans, you should have plenty of opportunities this year to help out.
The evening began with the amusing sight of Brandon Sanderson piling various items of furniture on top of one another to create a home-made lectern for his laptop. Following a brief aside on the difference between a lectern and a podium (and how this plays into the editorial process), Brandon read from a novella he’s recently written. [Legion] Apparently, he started it on the flight back to the US the last time he came to the UK. He couldn’t work on the Wheel of Time since he was awaiting the outcome of some research on the notes. He went on to explain that Robert Jordan left a pile of notes roughly half Brandon’s height that his two researchers dip into when Brandon needs an answer to one of his questions. This is normally quick, but it can take several months to come up with a fully researched answer. The reading lasted about eight minutes and seemed to be from the beginning of the novella. I won’t spoil the concept, but it’s clever and deeply silly.
The evening then moved to a Q&A. Questions and answers are paraphrased from my notes and memory, so they won’t be absolutely word-for-word, but they shouldn’t be much different from the original conversation. I’ve included all the questions, not just the Wheel-related ones.
I might publish some of them. I have thought about publishing some sort of concordance, or single volume dictionary/encyclopedia, a very straightforward thing, not with any pretenses to be part of the Wheel of Time. From the beginning my editor has kept a list of words—created words—every plant that I mentioned, animal that I mentioned, every person’s name that was sitting in a town, or a village or an inn, every song. And it’s all there in that long, long list, and just the bare list right now I think is probably over a thousand pages. Which would present some difficulties, but the thing is I think I might take that list and give the basics, give definitions, put in definitions, put in references, who this person is, where this person’s seen.
Sort of like a massive glossary..?
In a way, yes. I don’t know, I think, perhaps, there might be some interest in that. I certainly wouldn’t do it until this is all over, because I, uhm, if and when I do it, I would like it to be complete, just nothing left out.
There is a large request from the fans that you do not let it to be edited, and that you publish them in their ‘raw diamond form’.
Oh, ah, okay.
No. No. No. Mainly I do it in my head. I have voluminous notes on my computer. But I realize 95 percent of the time that when I go to the notes, it is actually to add in new things that I have decided to say or do about a character or a nation or a culture or an organization. These things can get huge.
I do not usually go in to find out things. It's as if the act of having put the information into the file has helped me remember it. I don't say that it's 100 percent. I do have to sometimes go in and check to be sure about a particular character, somebody who's not a major character, exactly how did I spell her name? Or, did I say what color his eyes were?
Cadsuane Melaidhrin was born in 705 NE in the city-state of Far Madding. At the age of fifteen, she went to the White Tower. There she spent six years as a novice and five years as Accepted. She might have moved faster as novice and Accepted—in fact almost certainly should have—but she was noted for both her stubbornness and her pride (read arrogance). At age 26, she was raised Aes Sedai and chose the Green Ajah.
Cadsuane was very strong in the One Power; for many years she served as the gauge by which every incoming novice was judged. In the last thousand years, no one had matched her and few had come close. Certainly no one in that time had exceeded her. Not even with her full strength yet, she was, on the very day she attained the shawl, at the pinnacle of the Aes Sedai social hierarchy.
She stood about 5'5" tall and was neither slender nor stout. She was not pretty, but she was strikingly handsome with a fair complexion. She had dark eyes, which some people occasionally mistook for black, especially when she was focused on them in an unpleasant fashion. Her hair became iron-gray, and she wore it in a bun on top of her head; the bun was decorated with small dangling golden ornaments, stars and moons and birds and fish. These hair ornaments were considered something of a trademark because she had worn them for as long as anyone could remember. For many sisters, the fact that she had was just one more indication of how set in her ways she was; they thought Cadsuane would never change, could never change. Of course, that was far from true; Cadsuane was remarkably adaptable, as befits someone who survived as long as she.
Cadsuane was considered by many to be a second Caraighan, although unlike Caraighin, she always refused offices. She preferred the field, so to speak; adventures were her bag. It was said that Cadsuane went through more Warders than most sisters have shoes; she didn't have all that many, since she was as vulnerable to the effects of a Warder's death as anyone else. Later in life, she refused to take another Warder because she felt that at her age, bonding a Warder would not be fair to the man.
Cadsuane first refused to be raised a Sitter in 846 NE; she reportedly did so a second time as well, though even one refusal was unheard of. She refused to be raised head of the Green Ajah in 862 NE, another thing that was unheard of. She was said to have vanished from the Tower for ten years (from roughly 890 NE to 900 NE) when she learned that the Hall intended to raise her Amyrlin after Sereille Bagand. She retired to northern Ghealdan about twenty-five years before the Aiel War, but came out of retirement, with her two surviving Warders, for that conflict. Soon after the Aiel War ended, she returned to her rustication. She claimed to have been raising roses when Logain appeared. His appearance drew her out of retirement again, but she was not interested in escorting him to Tar Valon and decided to wander a bit. Then Mazrim Taim rose up, and she headed for Saldaea as fast as she could ride.
When Siuan Sanche and Moiraine Damodred had reason to research Cadsuane because of their encounter with her shortly after reaching the shawl, they found many stories regarding Cadsuane. All of the ones that they were able to trace down turned out to be true, and in some cases the truth was more than the story. They were not able to follow or confirm all of the stories, of course.
One of the most prevalent Cadsuane stories was that she had once physically assaulted an Amyrlin Seat. Since physically assaulting any sister is a serious offense—and an Amyrlin even more so—the fact that Cadsuane apparently escaped any punishment at all, and that the tale is vague about which Amyrlin it was supposed to be, made most everyone think this story was false. It wasn't; it was the method Cadsuane used to turn Myriam Copan from a weak Amyrlin to a strong one in 758 NE. Myriam was thought to have gone on a two-month retreat by herself, but she had, in fact, been all but kidnaped by Cadsuane. Turning Myriam around involved, among other things, turning her upside down at least once. Although Myriam certainly had reason to keep the events of those two months secret (and was able to make a statement which seemed to deny that Cadsuane had assaulted her), it is the basis of the tale that Cadsuane once physically assaulted an Amyrlin.
Another story said that long ago she had removed a sitting king from his palace and taken him to Tar Valon to be gentled. In truth, Cadsuane had "a nose" for men who can channel. She faced more of them than any other sister living; she herself said more than any two Reds, maybe more than any ten. That seems to indicate at least twenty of them by that time, maybe more. She brought more of them to Tar Valon than any other sister. Of these, she never had to kill one, either because she could not capture him or because he was trying to escape. These men have ranged over the years from farmboys to nobles to the king of Tarabon, but one and all, they made much better adjustments to their fate than is considered normal. They eventually died short of a normal span, but they lived considerably longer than usual. And that King of Tarabon: he had to be winkled out of his palace, avoiding his army, which sought to rescue him. She carried him all the way to Tar Valon for gentling by herself, though pursued by his army that refused to believe that he was what he was.
It was also said that she kidnaped a King of Arad Doman and a Queen of Saldaea. After she released them, a war that had seemed inevitable simply faded away. She did actually spank or switch three reigning kings and four queens, though the facts of these are hidden in rumor.
Cadsuane is alleged to have once single-handedly stopped a coup in the White Tower. This did happen, though no one seems to know or agree on when. The true story: Cadsuane and Sereille Bagand did not get on with each other. In fact, they could not stand one another. Each was the sort of woman who dominated a room—or for that matter, a city!—by simply entering, and they struck sparks at every meeting. Despite her dislike for Sereille, though, Cadsuane uncovered a plot to overthrow Sereille and crushed it. The plotters thought she would be eager to join them, but she dragged the weeping ringleaders to Sereille and made them throw themselves on Sereille's rather small mercies. Sereille was not particularly pleased to have been saved—the plot was well laid out and ready to leap off—by one she so disliked.
She had a reputation for standing White Tower custom on its head, twisting it as she chose, and even violating it outright, as in her frank speech about age, her direct questions and refusals to accept oblique answers, and her interference in the actions of other sisters. The same could be said of her regarding Tower law, for that matter. She had a reputation for taking direct action, even to the point of violence, slapping faces, boxing ears, and more (especially when faced with what she considered stupidity), with high as often as low, or rather, more often. She also had a reputation for not caring whether she dented somebody's pride, if she thought it necessary.
There are the usual tales expected of a Green, only more of them. Riots suppressed and wars stopped single-handedly; rulers steadied on their thrones, or pulled from them, sometimes toppled openly and sometimes more subtly (toppling rulers was something Aes Sedai had not really done much of in the last thousand years, but Cadsuane seemed in many ways a throwback). Rescuing people carried into the Blight or kidnaped by dangerous bands of Darkfriends, breaking up murderous rings of Darkfriends plaguing villages and towns, and exposing powerful Darkfriends who tried to kill her to protect themselves. There are dozens, even hundreds, of improbable and sometimes seemingly impossible tales.
Some of these are not so much tales about her as an impression, a belief: Cadsuane will do what she intends to do, and no one can stop her: not a king or a queen, not an Amyrlin—not even the Dark One himself, some claimed. And when Rand al'Thor arose to power as the Dragon Reborn, Cadsuane once again chose to take part in directing the events of the world.
His answer (paraphrased): "Some time in the mid 70's, though I didn't start writing it till the mid 1980's."
I then quickly followed up with, "Did you make any notes in the beginning?"
When Lan tracked down Myrelle in Lord of Chaos, she used the bond to Compel him to come to her, in such a way that he wouldn't detect it. Did she have to use the bond to seduce Lan, or did he just go along because he didn't have anything better to do?
(laughter) I'd have to look that one up. I don't know. I'd have to look it up. I don't have the answer to that one. We'll call that one a MAFO though. I'm actually curious myself (laughter).
The question poses a false dichotomous argument: was Lan "seduced" by the bond or did he have nothing better to do? [Terez: it was a joke.] Suffice to say that Lan was psychologically devastated at this point—not in his right mind, his will to live shattered. Myrelle took control of him to save his life; he really had no choice in the matter. And here’s a quote from the notes for you: “She had to use the bond to compel [notice lower case here] him, sometimes, which she found both odd and somewhat insulting.” But one has to put this in the context of her other Warders, who eagerly complied with her desires, carnal or otherwise.
I plot backward. I start with a goal, and then I build an outline that gets me to that goal. And then I write forward. With the Wheel of Time books, I'm in a unique position because often I have that goal already stated in the notes, or it's a scene that Robert Jordan has written that I need to get to. The outline for the first two was very detailed, because Robert Jordan had all of these materials which I needed to weave into an outline. We say there was an outline. Really there was a list of scenes in no particular order, and I had to turn them into an outline. And I wanted to go over that with Maria and Harriet and make sure I wasn't screwing anything up.
One thing I did catch, Robert Jordan claims to have enough notes to write books based on WoT for the rest of his life. That's not a quote, but he mentioned something to that effect.
The next question was by Daniel Rouk I believe, correct me if I'm wrong. I've posted this part before, but included it for completeness.
How do you keep track of all the information? Do you have, like, a database?
I have a database. Yes. I have a database, in a way a rather rudimentary one. It is simply a huge collection of files organized on characters, on cultures, um (pause) organizations, anything that I think I might need to know about the world. But to tell you the truth, I usually go into those files to add in new things that I've come up with. It's not that often that I go in there to check on things.
Do you keep a list of all your different threads so you don't have a whole bunch of hanging.....
No, no, no, no, no, no that's all in my head. It doesn't exist anywhere except in my head.
—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!'
I honestly don't know yet. (As mentioned above.) I think we should probably do another interview about this in the coming months, as I will have a better idea.
However, know that I intend to use EVERY BIT of actual written text from Mr. Jordan, and in intend to follow those outlines as exactly as possible. I've been told that there is a substantial amount that I will have to come up with, but I will always have a guide—if only a few lines or dictated explanations.
And, as I understand it, the notes about the ending are very detailed—I think the last chapter may even have been written in full. If that's the case, then I'll be very happy. I would much rather be the guy who writes the middle fifty chapters of this book than have to be the one who writes the last five.
Okay, okay. You've got a right to know. I'll tell just you.
It was Bela.
Ok, if you won't tell us, will you tell us in A Memory of Light?
I certainly intend to! I hope he left notes on it.
Karede catches up with Mat and the Band. Tuon completes the marriage ceremony.
Mat fights a battle with Elbar's men to allow Karede to get Tuon away safely.
Elayne is 66 days pregnant.
Melaine is 167 days pregnant.
Sorry, another WOT question:
How much brainstorming did you do to simplify the plot? What was the process like? Robert Jordan wrote himself into a hole...
Oh, you mean the fat man with... no, wait that was Rand....
Yeah, Moiraine’s one was an ivory woman.
Yeah, yeah. You know, that’s a good question, because it’s odd, the notes specifically said she got the angreal as one of her wishes...
Ah, so it’s definitely not the angreal Lanfear had? People have asked, I think because both were bracelets.
No, it’s definitely a different angreal. But yes, if she had another angreal, why would she ask for one?
Maybe the Finns took her original one. I mean she was naked when they found her, so they took...
Yeah, maybe *looks dubious*.
Or maybe it’s still in Cairhien with the rest of her stuff.
Yeah, but it would still be odd, that she’d ask, if she had another. Yeah, so, I don’t know, sorry.
They know of angreal. That’s in the notes. And yes, as far as I know a damane should be able to use one. I mean damane are essentially in links, and women in links can still use angreal, but this is a good question, because, it’s odd then that we haven’t seen them use them.
Maybe they were thought too valuable to risk in an invasion—though that’s odd, because that would be sort of where they are needed most.
Yeah, I’m not sure... that is strange. But they definitely know of angreal.
So, why didn’t they use it on wardings Rand placed on Callandor, and the other things they’ve wanted that were warded earlier in the series?
*stares at me for a long moment, thoughtfully* They may not have know them then. The thing is... we don’t see a lot of the Shadow innovating with the Power, unlike with the Light, but they have been. As much as the Light. But they know, now. The notes definitely say this.
*blinks at me* Umm. That's a really good question.
I ask, because it's odd that Moghedien never tried to use the dream to escape, or to capture someone in Salidar and compel her to free Moghedien in the waking world, or anything like that.
Yeah, that's a good question. I'd guess no, but you can MAFO that.
I believe that you cannot touch Tel'aran'rhiod while leashed, but I can't find anything in the notes that states so outright.
*nodding before I finished* MAFO. That was something I was going to look into myself, because it stumped me during my last re-read. I never got round to it... you haven’t seen the size of the pile of notes, they are huge, and most of my time... I have to give over to things that are involved in what I’m working on. Sometimes though, I do just go into them purely for fan interest.
I would love to have an afternoon alone with the notes. *another fan nods fervently*
It is my understanding that Rand put that warding on when he was getting ready to leave Tear. As for Be’lal . . . well, he was one of the Chosen; what need had he of an angreal to go up against an untrained sheepherder? That’s my best guess, anyway.
Brandon was talking about the differences between his writing and Jim’s, and choosing not to try and match styles because it couldn’t be done. He describe it as 'I do serviceable prose, where Jim wrote beautiful prose', and that there have been scenes he’s come to where he’s simply had to say 'I just have to do this my way, there’s nothing for it'.
He spoke then of Jim’s ability to layer subtle foreshadowing, which is something he’s never had to do outside of his story behind the story [he’s referring to the greater cosmos of his own works, the whole, Shards of Adonalsium and Hoid storylines that go on in the background]. He said it has been a real challenge to catch all the balls that Jordan left in the air, and that sometimes you can see that. ‘Some he caught smoothly, others he snatched from the air and slammed on the table. Some he even just said 'this happened'.
Finally he spoke of plotting, and how sometimes Jordan’s notes have said two contradictory things ‘maybe I’ll do this, or maybe I’ll do this other completely opposite thing’. Brandon said he then often had to choose between them, or sometimes choose a third thing entirely.
I'm sorry. I often miss tweets. I haven't seen any of your others. I would be happy to release the notes if Harriet allows it.
Thank you. It would bring joy to my heart to feel his words on the ending of the greatest story told. No disrespect intended.
I understand. I plan to push Harriet on this more once the last book is out.
He also got into his own approach to magic systems, which lead to questions about how much of a challenge he found the One Power and how he prepared himself to handle it (and yeah, he admits being a One Power fan). Brandon explained researching and analyzing the One Power was one of his main focuses during his pre-writing re-read of the series (the other was analyzing the characters' "voices". He also said RJ left a massive amount of notes about the One Power, some of it he's read (he couldn't read everything, he rather relied on Maria to find him the exact information he needed when he needed it). I think he's said that before—or RJ did—but RJ's notes for WOT are longer than the series itself and he always kept adding to them, from back story and history elements to world building tidbits to creating hundreds of characters he could use to sketches for possible scenes. It was Maria's job to index all of this so if he was writing a scene he wanted to use backstory elements or a new weave in, he could have her look first if this already existed in the notes and what of it had appeared in the series already—or if he didn't already have it and needed to create something from scratch.
Sanderson said he resisted creating new weaves (beside introducing those Jordan planned to introduce) for the most part. His contribution will rather be to have the characters figure out they can use weaves they know in new ways—turn them into weapon etc., and for this he looked for details in the previous books. He mentioned one specific example: after Knife of Dreams, he thought characters figured out gateways and deathgates can also be used to slice non-Shadowspawn up in battle.
We also discussed a bit the 21 levels list, which Brandon used a lot. Jordan did start it just the way he described it long ago, that is as a way to keep track of who defers to whom among minor players etc. However, as of now, this document's scope goes beyond this (and it's quite big). The document assigns a rank number to each Aes Sedai referring to the twenty-one levels system, and it lists their personal weaves if they have any, and who knows and have the skills to use which weave and to what extent, their strength in flows if details in the series have blocked this up etc. Brandon confirmed Jordan developed a similar ranking system for the Asha'man as well, but couldn't recall out of hand how many levels there were for them.
@Terez27 Trying to figure out who the gay character was that @BrandSanderson put in Towers of Midnight. Was it Androl?
That is my best guess. I wonder if we scared him away from going through with that...'twas very controversial.
The place wasn't right in Towers of Midnight. Gay character is in A Memory of Light. It's really not a big deal; just a small mention.
I will say, at this point, that it is a character RJ mentioned was gay in the notes, so I noted it in the text.
[Links to following tweet from this conversation.]
I won't say if it's a new character or one I made a decision on, since there weren't notes either way.
I'm guessing that's a product of Twitter being a bad place for trying to say things clearly. The older tweet was confusing anyway.
Wow, that was indeed confusing. I don't even know what I was trying to say.
What I remember typing was "I won't tell you if it's something RJ had in notes or not."
I debated writing this because you seem like a genuinely nice guy who cares about his fans, and I don't want to hurt your feelings. If you find it difficult to read criticism, please don't read any further.
To be honest, I am hoping that you won't write the outriggers/prequels because it seems to me like your heart's just not in it anymore. In 2011 you announced that you needed time off to reread the entire series before starting work on A Memory of Light since you'd forgotten too much and this had led to continuity issues in Towers of Midnight. But according to your own website, you only reread a third of the series, then went on to work on Alloy of Law, Legion, The Emperor's Soul, The Rithmatist... As someone who enjoyed Way of Kings a great deal, I'm glad that you've continued to work on your own books, but the fact that you abandoned the reread does make me worry about the quality of A Memory of Light. If you cannot give WoT as much time and attention as it needs, it's better to let it go.
Another big issue for me is the characterization. You're great at writing Perrin and also did a good job with Rand and the girls for the most part. Others felt off, and that unfortunately includes the main characters the outriggers and prequels would focus on. I'll leave out Mat since that's been discussed to death already, but Lan and Moiraine's scenes in Towers of Midnight were a huge disappointment for me. Lan has always been a favorite of mine, but here he came off as a whiny combination of Gawyn and Perrin. He's a grown man in his late 40s, not a sulky teenager.
Then there's Moiraine, now ready to give up all her power if only Thom tells her to. Yes, her captivity undoubtedly changed her, but at her core, she is someone who was ready to sacrifice everyone and everything to win the Last Battle, including herself. So it didn't seem right for Moiraine to offer to give up an important tool like the angreal.
""Egwene, I know what you feel for Rand, but you must realize by now that nothing can come of it. He belongs to the Pattern, and to history."—Moiraine, The Shadow Rising
For an instant she regretted sending Thom away. She did not like having to waste her time with these petty affairs. But he had too much influence with Rand; the boy had to depend on her counsel. Hers, and hers alone.—Moiraine, The Shadow Rising
That had been one of Moiraine's more succinct bits of advice. Never let them see you weaken.—Rand, Lord of Chaos
I happen to like Moiraine a lot, but there's no denying she was partly responsible for Rand thinking he needed to be hard. Yet in Towers of Midnight you have Rand speak of how caring she was; even Mat and Nynaeve sing her praises. You seem to be trying to retcon Moiraine into a saintly figure she never was. All WoT characters have major flaws; Moiraine's was that she treated people as chess pieces that sometimes needed to be sacrificed for the greater good. In The Shadow Rising she intentionally tried to separate Rand from his friends so she could be the only person influencing him. It wasn't until Rhuidean that she discovered firsthand what it felt like to be the person forced to make the ultimate sacrifice, and she finally became the advisor Rand needed. But even then she was still manipulating him and encouraging him to be hard, so obviously she hadn't changed completely. To ignore her flaws and mistakes is to do the character a disservice and hides her growth in The Fires of Heaven.
This is getting long, so I'll wrap it up here. I hope this made sense and that I didn't hurt your feelings. I still think you're a very talented writer and look forward to reading both A Memory of Light and the next Stormlight book.
Well, thanks for the thoughts. I will take the comments for what they are worth, and appreciate your sincerity.
By way of correction, I do want to point out that Alloy of Law, Legion, and The Rithmatist were all written BEFORE I started work on A Memory of Light. The only thing I've written during A Memory of Light was The Emperor's Soul, which is a short work I wrote on the flight home from Taiwan earlier in the year. I have always stopped my main projects for side ones. It is part of what keeps me fresh. Alcatraz was in the middle of Mistborn, Rithmatist in the middle of Liar of Partinel (which I decided not to publish; it was the last book I wrote before the WoT came my way.) Legion was during Towers of Midnight. Emperor's Soul during A Memory of Light.
My heart is completely in it—that I can assure you. I stopped the re-read because I was just too eager to be working on the book, and I'd already re-read (the last year) books 9-11 in working to get Perrin and Mat down for Towers of Midnight. But your complaint is valid. I did not re-read 6-8, except for spot reading. I kept telling myself I needed to get to them, but I was too deeply into the writing by that point.
As for where I misfired on characterization, I apologize. In some cases, I don't see them the same way as you do. In other cases, I am doing a worse job than RJ would have, and the failings are mine. I don't want to diminish your opinion, as it is valid. I certainly have struggled with some characters more than others.
Though, for the scene with Moiraine and Thom you quote above...I, uh, didn't write that scene, my friend. That one was RJ in its entirety, and was one of the most complete scenes he left behind.
Brandon, thank you for the thoughtful response. I understand that it's very difficult for most authors to read criticism (let alone reply to it), so I appreciate that you took the time to read and reply.
I'd like to stress that I wholeheartedly agree with Neil Gaiman's "GRRM is not your bitch" post and hope it didn't come across like I thought you shouldn't be working on anything besides WoT. Side projects are very much a good thing (happy and creative authors→better books), and I am personally excited about your upcoming books. It was mainly the fact that you seemed to have given up on the reread that felt like a reason for concern since you had previously said you needed to refresh your memory to avoid a repeat of Towers of Midnight's continuity errors. It also made me worry that you had gotten weary of working on A Memory of Light, which would have been understandable given that it's a very time-consuming and demanding project that you've already spent 4-5 years on. I'm glad to hear this is not the case.
"In some cases, I don't see them the same way as you do."
That's not something I object to since we all have different perceptions of the characters. In most cases I understand where you are coming from even if your interpretation differs somewhat from mine. Unlike me, you also have access to all sorts of character notes and spoilers about their futures.
However, in some cases it felt like your personal love or dislike of certain characters also played a strong role. To put it bluntly, it's easy to tell that Perrin, Egwene and Moiraine are your favorites since they've received a disproportionate amount of PoVs or praise from other characters, Egwene in particular (how many scenes do we need where people talk about how brilliant, clever and talented Egwene is?). I don't know how much you follow other WoT boards, but there's been a lot of debate in fandom as to whether Egwene has become too much of a Mary Sue-type character who easily defeats supposedly shrewd political opponents and is constantly praised by other characters, often at the expense of people like Siuan. It's impossible for a writer to remain completely objective, and your background as a fan is on the whole one of your biggest strengths, but sometimes things like that can feel jarring. I would not want to see the same happen to a complex, flawed and interesting character like Moiraine.
"Though, for the scene with Moiraine and Thom you quote above...I, uh, didn't write that scene, my friend. That one was RJ in its entirety, and was one of the most complete scenes he left behind."
I have to admit, this comes as a surprise to me, partly because of Moiraine's seemingly uncharacteristic offer to surrender almost all her power for Thom's sake and partly because she used contractions in this scene (in the New Spring graphic novel, there's a note from Jordan informing the comic writers that Moiraine never uses contractions). She and Thom seemed to have a mutual respect and attraction in the early books, but spent very little time together, so I would not have expected any full-blown love or a marriage proposal at this point. It just seemed very strange for Moiraine to be willing to sacrifice her only chance at regaining her strength when she's barely even thought about Thom in her PoVs before. But since Jordan wrote that scene, there's nothing to do but accept that it's where he wanted to take the characters.
Re: Contractions Interesting story here. Harriet and Team Jordan worried about my use of contractions in places that RJ did not. It seemed very striking to them. Their first instinct was to go through and change it, after the fact, in order to match RJ's style.
Harriet didn't like how that looked. She felt that my style needed to be blended with RJ's, rather than taking my style and forcing it to fit into something else. So it was decided that one of her tasks, as editor, would be to blend the writing after it was put together. She'd go through and make scenes feel right together, and would blend the two styles like a painter blending paint.
So, she takes away contractions from me where she feels they need to go and she actually adds them to RJ's writing where she thinks it needs to be blended. I was curious if that was the case here, so I went back to the original notes.
And it turns out RJ wrote the scene with contractions. Most likely, he was planning to trim them out with editing. Remember, even the most complete scenes we have from him are first drafts. In fact, in some of them, the tense is wrong. (Much of this Moiraine/Thom/Mat scene is in present tense. )
An example from the notes is:
He puts the angreal on her wrist, and says 'I'll marry you now.'
In revision, this line turned into:
He put the bracelet back on her wrist. "I'll marry you now, if you wish it."
Anyway, I don't want to spend too much time defending myself, because that's not the point of your post. Really, the most important thing for me to say is that I understand. I'll do my best, and criticism like this is important to me. (Particularly on the Wheel of Time books, where I feel that listening to fan direction is important for gauging how well I'm doing on the characters.) It was fan criticism that brought me around to finally seeing what I was doing wrong with Mat, and (hopefully) making some strides toward writing him more accurate to himself.
Here's a video I took at LibertyCon of Brandon reading the A Memory of Light opening again. No new text (he actually stops a few paragraphs short) but he does talk about about why he structured the scene as he did. Sorry for the shakiness, it was taken on my iPhone (my arms were pretty sore near the end!).
So, the last wind scene. I spent a long time thinking about this one, and what I would do with this, because Jim had intended one book, so from the notes you can guess that there was only one wind scene indicated, and I had three to do, because of three books, and it felt very appropriate for me, as I was going over it, to have the wind come out of the Two Rivers. It felt appropriate to me; it felt thematic with the first book—if you go back and look at the wind scene from the first book—and I actually had it blow across the course of book one, basically. We don't get all the way up where book one is, but we head out to Caemlyn, and then they kind of veer off. The point of this scene is kind of...again, it set everything that's been happening—where we are, and what's going on—but I also felt that this is a book of contrasts. This is a book of stark, stark whites and deep, deep blacks. It's named A Memory of Light for that reason, and so I wanted to end the scene at Rand laughing, with warm light spilling out of his tent, and that's kind of what we've got going on there—the contrast that's going on in this land—and there is this pool of light right there, represented in him, and that's our metaphor for this whole book: death, destruction, and the Dragon Reborn.
How definitive was Robert Jordan's outline for the final Wheel of Time novels? Was there any room left for you to find your own path?
There was a lot of room, and it's been a true collaboration. Wherever he left information, I tried to follow what he directed, but there were huge gaps that he didn't explain, and I got to do what I thought the story needed at those points.
So it was more a series of landmarks to hit than a point-by-point road map.
Yeah, certainly. That's a really good way to explain it. He wrote the last scene himself, for instance, and big chunks of the prologue and, interspersed through that, viewpoints from different characters. There were notes that his assistants gathered for me when during his last months they asked him a lot of questions.
Yes. Right. I could barely say the names right back then, and half the time I didn't say them right...
You were so cute. (laughter)
Yeah. I was very, very scared of the Wheel of Time fandom...
We were very scared of you; we didn't know what was gonna happen.
...so, the interesting thing is at the time, I think you said the first thing you did was you wanted to find out who killed Asmodean, and that got the whole room laughing at the time, and you talked about how you briefed yourself on all the material that was left, and [?] and everything, and you said Jim wanted one final novel, but you didn't see any way. You made an estimate of the number of words, hundreds of thousands of words...
Yeah. 800,000 was my initial estimate.
And what did it end up being? I'm just curious.
It ended up being around, let's see...around nine, maybe ten...so, a hundred—or a million words, right around.
It grew a bit, yeah. And part of that is the fact of cutting it gave me a little more space to do that, and part of it was, you know, little touches here and there. You never can guess really exactly. It didn't grow by enormous amounts—it grew by maybe ten or twenty percent, which is within a reasonable threshold when I guesstimate a book length—but yeah, it did grow a bit, and after the books are all out, I'll tell you some of the things that grew, some of the things that got added. There were things that weren't in the initial outline that I decided needed to be in the books as I was writing them, and that happens with every book that you're going to be doing.
The process for writing this book, for those who haven't heard: When I walked in there and I was given this, I was given a stack of about two hundred pages. I don't know how much I've talked about this at this con so far; I talked about this recently somewhere. Oh, it was on the interview I did, first day. It's gonna go up on the air somewhere. So, about two hundred pages. I can release that number because Tom Doherty released it at DragonCon, I believe it was. [It was at WorldCon 2008.] He got up and said, "This is how much we had." And, Robert Jordan was what we call a 'discovery writer'; George R. R. Martin calls it a 'gardener'. He would not write chronologically; he would write on whatever occurred to him at the moment. He would 'discover' his way through a book. He usually had an ending in mind, and things like that, and important scenes he was gonna write, but he would very much just feel it out as he went. This is very common among writers; it’s one of the main archetypes of writers there are out there. Stephen King does it this way too. Neil Gaiman says he does it a lot this way too. You kind of feel your way through.
But what it means is that what was handed to me, they had been arranged by Alan, one of the members of Team Jordan, into an order that he kind of thought they might go in, but there was really no indication from Jim [as to] the order of these scenes. They were just a list of scenes. And where those had come from are scenes that he had worked on, which a large number of them were half-complete, because he would just write on what he felt like at the time, get a few pages in, then set it aside and then think about it some more while he’d work on something else. So there were a lot of fragmentary scenes. There are a lot of scenes you’ll be reading in these three books where it’s like three pages of Robert Jordan and like three pages of me making up a scene, or a page or Robert Jordan, two pages of me and then another page of Robert Jordan, or things like that. A lot of those, there are places here and there where I’ve grabbed a paragraph of his, because the rest wasn’t finished, it was just a paragraph where he said, “It’s going to do this, and then here’s this paragraph of this great sequence.” And so a lot of it was like that.
A lot of it was interviews. During the last months, his cousin Wilson and members of Team Jordan would be talking to him and Jim would start talking about scenes. There’s a famous one, “There’s a ______ in the Blight,” which is a quote from Wilson. That was a time when Jim told him—you’ll have to have him tell that story some time, it’s awesome—but Jim just started going off—Jim is Robert Jordan, for those who didn’t know—Jim would go off on...he just talked through this entire scene. And that’s one of the ones that we had the most understanding of, in a lot of ways, some of these scenes where he would talk about them.
For instance, the first scene in The Gathering Storm, there’s a prologue with an old farmer sitting on his front porch. This scene was dictated by Jim, and we actually had the recording of that, it got played at JordanCon I. And the interesting thing, if you were to have listened to that or if I can just describe it to you. It’s all in present tense. It’s like, “There’s this farmer, and he’s sitting on the porch and he looks up and he sees the clouds. These are black and silver clouds, and he’s never seen black and silver clouds before; they’re very striking.” And Jim goes through this whole narrative like that. Well, that’s very complete as a scene, he does the whole thing. And yet it’s in present tense, without a lot of the language turned into written language; it’s talked through.
Right, there’s one point where he describes a sound as sounding like a freight train. Well, you can’t say it sounds like a freight train in the Wheel of Time, that doesn’t make any sense.
Exactly. There’s that scene, so I had several of those scenes, where basically I can keep Jim’s voice intact and just tweak the words a little bit to make them fit and add in a few sentences of description here and there, and we had several of those scenes. Then there were the Q&A scenes, which were Maria saying “So what happens to this character?” “Well, let me tell you what happens to this character.” And then Jim would talk. And so because of those Q&As, we knew a lot about the ending—a whole ton—and he did write the last scene himself and he talked through where everyone ends up and things, and so the bulk, and I’ve said all along, the weight of what we had from him was about that ending, where he would go and say “Here’s what happens to this character,” and it’s really talking about here’s what happens to this character in the Last Battle and then after the Last Battle, assuming there is an after the Last Battle, this is where this character would go. And so we have that basically for everybody.
You and Harriet had a great way of describing it at one of the book signings for The Gathering Storm. You said that you had a map of the United States and you knew that at the end of the book that Perrin ends up in Chicago, but he starts off in like Orlando, and you know that he has to go to Los Angeles before he can get to Chicago, but you don’t know all the other steps in between and why he’s going to Los Angeles, so they had to figure out all the in-between parts.
Yeah, there are great things where there’s just like a line from his notes. “And then Perrin is here doing this.” And you’re like “What? Perrin’s in Malden, how is he gonna get there? And he’s going to do what? And then he’s got to be up here to do what?” And then we know the ending, what he’s doing there. So, there was a lot of that. So, this all became the book, where I built an outline out of this, I took the scenes that he had said. The thing about the notes is that a lot of the notes were to him, and so he would say things like “I’m going to do this or this” and they’re polar opposites. And so there are sequences like that, where I decide what we’re going to do, and stuff like that. And this all is what became the trilogy that you’re now reading.
Since you've had this other career—which has helped, I'm sure, in a lot of ways—what impact has this been on your original writing career, I mean I know you had to have slowed down your progress and your series, but you've still been writing those. What are the biggest impacts you've seen on your writing career because of taking on the Wheel of Time?
It's definitely done some...it's made me have to put down projects. In fact, next year, I have coming out the projects I was working on in 2007 when this came my way; The Rithmatist and Steelheart are both books that I did way back then that I didn't feel that I was able to release in the middle of the Wheel of Time books, even though I had them done, because I wouldn't have been able to do the revisions on them, and because I wouldn't be able to support them; I wouldn't be able to do sequels and things like that. They're both YA books. And that's, you know...when I accepted this, I said "Okay, I'm shelving these things." I did get to do a couple of books, I got to do The Way of Kings, which, granted, I already had a draft of that done. So really, the only book in these last years, the last five years that I've been doing this, that I've written from scratch and released was Alloy of Law. And so it's going to...it did kind of slow me down. The only reason it didn't slow me down as much as it could have was because I had all of this stuff done already. I had a great big backlog of books, because I enjoy writing, and I've been writing for years, and back then I wasn't as popular as I am now, so Tor would put things in slots later on, like...while I've been working on these, Warbreaker and Mistborn 3 came out, both of which were done years before I was offered the Wheel of Time. And so...yeah, all of this stuff that I had been working on long ago got delayed, and that was just fine—I went into this eyes open—but it is going to be nice to be able to go back to these things and give them some of the support that I've wanted all along.
You know, this project took more time than all of us expected it to. I had to say yes sight unseen to knowing how big it was. I knew what Jim had said, but I didn't know how much of it was done. I didn't know that we had two hundred pages out of two thousand. There was no way for me to know how much would need to be done. So yeah, it's been a big long deviation, but not a distraction, because I think my writing has grown by leaps and bounds. It's kind of like I had to go pump iron, because writing in the Wheel of Time has been much harder than writing on anything else I've done, and I have been forced to grow, and you can see my being forced to grow between the books in the Wheel of Time books. I think my writing is way better in Towers of Midnight than it was in The Gathering Storm, particularly in some of the ways that that Jim was strong. And so, I think that's helped me. It's certainly not an experience that I would trade for anything. I got to read the ending in 2007, so there's that. (laughter) But yeah, it's been a wonderful experience, but boy, it's been a big, big, big deviation. It's not where I thought my career would go at all.
Was it daunting seeing just that small amount of work that was taken care of before you stepped on?
Well, it's daunting in two ways: First, I got that. It was really nice to have the ending. Like, having the prologue and the ending basically done—those were the two things that he did the most work on—meant that I had the bookends, which is how I build an outline anyway. I know where I start, I know my ending, and I build an outline out of that. But at the same time, there's three million words of notes about the series, which is daunting in another way. Yes, there's two hundred pages of work done on the book, and then there's this stack over here of all these other notes that include all of these things that are just mind-boggling, the stuff that's in there. We released a few of them last year for you guys. Was it last year that we released the notes?
Yeah, we got the page on Cadsuane and...
Yeah, the page on Cadsuane and stuff like that. You just see all of weird things that he had in his notes. I have all the same sort of weird stuff in my notes about like Stormlight and stuff, but it's just fun to see. You go pore through these notes...he has the most random stuff. Lists of trees, lists of people, lists of this, and just millions and millions and words of this stuff, more than I can keep track of at all. It requires Maria and Alan to keep track of all this stuff. So it was also daunting in that, yes there are two hundred pages written, which actually nice, because as I've said before, if the book had been 80% of the way done, they wouldn't have needed to hire me, they wouldn't have needed to bring me in. When a book is 80% of the way done, that's when you get a ghostwriter, or Harriet just does it herself. She really could have done it in-house herself and finished that and said "Look, here we're going to do a few patches and stuff, but the book is mostly done."
And so, getting there and saying "Hey, I actually get to do something with this, I have an opportunity to add the scenes that I've been wanting as a fan for years and years, so I get a chance to actually write these characters, rather than coming in and just patching some holes," was very thrilling for me at the same time. You know, I worried that I would get there and it would just be patching holes—"Write these five scenes," or something like that—and that would have meant I wouldn't have really had a part in it. Granted, that would have been better, because it would have meant there was more Jim in it, and it would have made a better book, but at the same time, when I got to see those two hundred pages, I was saddened but excited at the same time.
Let's see here. Harriet killed a character in the book that I did not intend to kill. So I wrote the entire book with a character living and she killed this character.
Did she tell you right before you finished, or what?
She sent back the draft and said "This person dies."
So did you have to change a lot?
So they succumb to their wounds. I intended them to live, so there is a character who died unexpectedly. So that's a slight spoiler. There is like a chapter that's over a hundred pages. It's a Super Chapter.
Did you have to invent any of it yourself, or did Jordan leave a lot of it for you?
He left some of it for me, and then I had to make the rest. As you're reading through the books, probably about half and half. Half will be stuff that he wrote notes on, half will be stuff that I wrote.
Do you feel like it comes pretty easy?
Some of it does. I mean I've been reading since I was a kid. So some of the characters like Perrin is very natural for me. And Rand's super natural for me. Others are a little less natural for me.
Yes, like Mat. Mat's harder for me to write.
Why is that?
Because Mat is very complex. Not to say that Perrin's not, but Perrin's straightforward. You know what I mean? Perrin says what he means, and does what he means. Mat says the opposite of what he means, and does the opposite of what he says. Making that tone correct for that is very hard. He's one part rapscallion, the other part Awesomeness. And balancing when he's playing the fool, and when he's just being awesome is very hard to get that balance down, because you don't want it to be silly, you know he can play the fool a bit but he shouldn't be silly. Otherwise it won't match from when he's being Awesome as well, if that makes sense.
It's not likely. We feel that RJ's legacy is better protected by doing fewer books.
Would Harriet publishing RJs notes regarding the prequels and outriggers in the encyclopedia she's going to write?
It's possible. You could always ask her if she will. I'll have very little to do with the process.
It will be very hard to do simply because, you know, you would have a lot of sentences that would four colors in them (laughter), because, here are three words from Brandon; here are a couple of words from Robert Jordan; the rest are from Harriet, that she has edited, and then here's the insertion by Maria as she's doing the copy-edit, that something needed to be [put] in. It would be very difficult to get right.
The other thing is, Harriet has several times expressed a reluctance to let people see the notes because she doesn't want people focusing when reading the books on what was me and what is Jim. I do still kinda tend to work on her and see if I can get her to let us do something with the notes. I'm not too expectant—if it doesn't happen I'm gonna be fine—but I tend to ask on behalf of the fans, people like yourself, and if I can do that I can then bring them out and I will talk a little bit more about that.
One thing that I've said to people a number of times, that in each of the three books there is a prologue [scene] that Robert Jordan wrote almost completely, or completely, for the prologue of the book, then since we split it in three, I took one scene from each completely that is Robert Jordan's—and there are a few fragments in each prologue as well that were also his—but there's one complete scene in the prologue. In the first book, it was the farmer sitting on the doorsteps watching the storm; that was one of the scenes he dictated, and we actually at JordanConI got to listen to that dictation. In the second book it was the Borderlander tower with the soldier and his son; that was one of the more complete scenes we had from Robert Jordan which had some minimal revision and editing during the process but was basically a complete scene that he gave us. And there's one like that in the third book as well.
In The Gathering Storm, I've said before that, as the notes went, Rand was a little more me; there were fewer notes on Rand. There were more notes on Egwene. We're both involved in all the viewpoints, but Rand from that is a little more me, and Egwene's a little more Robert Jordan, and then in Towers of Midnight, Perrin's a little bit more me, and Mat is a little more Robert Jordan. And maybe we'll be able to release more than that, but so far that's about all I've said. There are certain scenes that he did write, by the way—I'll give you everything; this is what I've told people; I haven't told people much—but there's a certain scene in The Gathering Storm where Egwene has an unexpected meeting with an old friend in the Tower. That one was done by Robert Jordan. And in Towers of Midnight, there is...most of the Mat stuff including the ending where a certain engagement happens was Robert Jordan.
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.
Somebody asked if he killed any characters against RJ's wishes.
He said that there was one character who he was going to let live but Harriet insisted should die. And there was another character whose fate was not spelled out in the notes (I didn't quite hear what he said there) and that he killed that character himself. Other than that everybody who dies, dies by RJ's hand. I think he talked about this in other interviews so this is probably not new.
Do we ever find out how strong in the power Tuon would be if she ever snapped and started channeling? Did RJ leave any notes about that?
Yes he did. The problem is that that's not the sort of thing I can work into the books very easily. The issue is that her strength would be tied to, well, people's strength go up they practice and things. Yes he has the notes, but there's no way the characters can know for sure. That would be something for the outriggers, which maybe we can get into the encyclopedia. He left a big list for everyone and a number for their power level, their strength in the One Power, just for comparison's sake, which was cool because it would also say 'Here's the threshold for creating a gateway and here's the threshold for this' and its a really cool list and I hope they put it into the encyclopaedia but I don't know if they will.
Ok, so she's not going to snap in the next one and start channeling?
Well. Even if she did, how powerful she would get would not be immediately evident. Does that make sense?
There are a couple of things that Robert Jordan did, like...there are many things he did better than I do, but there are two things that he did amazingly better than I do that have been really hard to try and approach. The first one is his mastery of description. I...prose is not....you know, I do serviceable prose. I don't do beautiful prose in most cases. I occasionally can turn a phrase, but he could do beautiful prose in every paragraph, and that's just not one of my strengths. Pat Rothfuss is another one who can do that, if you're read Name of the Wind; it's just beautiful, every line. Robert Jordan I felt was like that, just absolute beauty.
The other thing that he was really good at was subtle foreshadowing across lots and lots of books. And it's not something I'd ever had to do before, unless you count my hidden epic, and I had never had to try and approach that level of subtlety, and it was a real challenge to try and catch all of those balls that he'd tossed in the air and he'd been keeping juggling. In fact, I would say, one of the most challenging parts, if not the most challenging part of this, was to keep track of all those subplots and make sure that I was not dropping too many of those balls. And you'll be able to see when you read the books which of those subplots were really important to me as a fan and which ones I was not as interested in, because some of those, I catch less deftly than others, and some of them I just snatch from the air and slam into this awesome sequence, and some of them I say, "Yeah, that's there."
And that's the danger of having a fan that does this. There were so many of those things. Fortunately, he left some good notes on a lot of them, and in some of them I was able to just slide in his scenes, and in others I had to decide how to catch that, and what to best do with it. But there's just so much. So much undercurrent going on through the whole books, through all of them, and so many little details in the notes that it's easy to get overwhelmed by it. Fortunately I have Team Jordan, Maria and Alan, to catch a lot of those things that I miss, but even with them there are things he was doing, that we don't even know what he was planning to do, that we just have to leave as is, and let it lie rather than trying to wrap it up poorly, because we don't know how he was doing to do it.
Excellent question. I read the ending—Robert Jordan wrote it himself, the last chapter, and I have put that into the last book unchanged—I read it and I was deeply satisfied with it. That is the word I always use: satisfying. It was a satisfying ending. And I didn't read that and ever think, "No, we're going to change this." I don't think it ever needed it. What I did is I said, "That's my goal. That's my target. I have to get us there in a satisfying way to match this ending." And my goal all along is to live up to that ending. The nice thing is, being a creative person, there were certain holes. There were things that he, you know....I know where that last chapter is, but there are big gaps along the way, some places where I got to say...I get to do some things I've been looking forward to doing, looking forward to having happen in the Wheel of Time, and that was really a treat to be able to sit down with that outline and say, wow, there's a place here for the thing I've been waiting as a long time as a fan, he doesn't say either way. I can make it happen.
And so I got to do a lot of those sequences, and then there are a lot of ones he left instructions on as well, and so my goal has been to...always my default is, if Robert Jordan said it, don't change it. However, that said, you can't do a book like this without being willing to be flexible in your outline. I never wanted...never changed that ending and I never have, but there are things along the way, particularly when he would say, I'm thinking of doing this, or maybe this other thing that's opposite, and sometimes I'll choose between one of those two, and sometimes it's neither one and it has to be a third thing. In a creative process, you really have to be willing to do that; you always have to be willing to toss aside what you were planning to do when something better works for what you're building, so and that has been that process. And after the books are out, I hope to be able to be much more forthcoming about what those things were and show some of the notes, if Harriet will let me, and show how they were adapted. I'm not sure if she will let me. It's really her call. Her argument has been that she doesn't want people's last memory of Robert Jordan to be his unfinished things, which is a really solid argument, and so hopefully she'll let us see some of it, but I can talk more freely about this after the last book's out.
For clarification, did you ever feel like a character should experience something that Mr Jordan hadn't mentioned or had clearly discouraged? Or feel that something should happen that Mr Jordan hadn't conceived or didn't want?
Nynaeve's Aes Sedai test was one of my favorite parts of Towers of Midnight, so I'm glad that was included, but it would be interesting to know whether RJ changed his mind or it was Brandon/Team Jordan's idea to include that.
This one was me. I realize he hadn't intended to do it, but he always reserved the right to change his mind on things like this. (If you read what he had to say on the last word of the book, for example, he said he thought he knew what it was—but that he might change that at any time.)
In working on the outlines, I felt it would feel strange not to show this. The challenge was to do it in a way that wasn't simply a repetition of what Mr. Jordan had shown in New Spring. I felt if I could make the experience unique, it would have a place in the novel—and if it did not, I would need to cut it. I felt good with the way it turned out, and it indeed found a place in the novel.
So you're the one responsible for the braid being singed off! Murderer!
I think it made a great addition to the book. Nynaeve's my favorite character, and I've always found it unfortunate that we haven't gotten too many POVs from her since she got married in A Crown of Swords. So it was great to see scenes that showed just how much she's grown since, while still remaining the same person at heart. The references to Nynaeve's greatest fears—spiders and heights—were very neat too. Thank you for giving the test a place in the novel.
As far as you know, have you finished all the plot threads with the last book? How did you keep track? Were there certain threads that RJ forgot about in his final telling to his family that you had to figure out on your own?
I have not finished all of them. There are a few that got cut from the book during the revision process, for example. (I'll reveal what these were after the book is out.) In other cases, RJ asked for certain threads to not be tied up.
My goal has been to tie up as many as I can, respecting Mr. Jordan and leaving alone the ones he said not to. He left many unexplained in his final telling—his last months were spent on the major plot cycles, and many smaller things were left to me.
At the end of A Memory of Light, I assume you're going to leave some questions unanswered intentionally. Will any of these have canonical answers that simply aren't shared, or will you try to resolve all the open questions?
There are canonical answers that are not in the book. (Mr. Jordan sometimes said in the notes "Here is the answer to this, but it isn't resolved in the last book.") He didn't want everything answered because he wanted the world to live on in people's minds. All major plot elements are dealt with, but some smaller ones are left open.
So there's going to be a new acronym after RAFO? Like YNFO?
(Probably left this too late to expect a response but...)
Will you (or anyone) ever provide those answers? Whether it be by blog/new "world of RJ's WoT" or Q&A?
I will try to answer some questions once the book is out. I'd like to do some blog posts talking in-depth about the process, and about the notes. But it will depend on a lot of factors.
Even Maria's large reference book won't contain those secrets?
The reference book will contain some of the things not resolved in the book, and I've given clues about some others. Other things...well, he wanted them to go unanswered. So they will be. (And some we don't even know the answers to.)
Thanks Brandon! I am excitedly and sadly awaiting the final book. After so many years, it's going to be rough finishing it, and closing a chapter of my own life.
Honestly, I'm hoping that they will release his [RJ's] raw notes, untouched. I'd like to see how he planned and imagined the universe in his own form of organization.
I would like that too just as long as Sanderson isn't planning to do anything with them. If Sanderson is planning an Age of Legends series after this then I would rather not know everything about everything. Considering that there was approximately 100 years between to creation of the bore and Lews Therin and the companions sealing it, that creates a lot of opportunity to expand upon.
I have only read up to Winter's Heart in the series so far so I don't know how much more is revealed about the creation of the bore, if the people involved in the creation of the bore did it intentionally or if it was accidental and about a million other questions on top of that. What we learned in Rhuidean in book 4 was only the tip of the iceberg compared to what could have been done.
There aren't any plans to do future books. We don't have any desire to see the Wheel of Time turn into a legacy series, like some have become, with writer after writer taking a turn at the helm. There isn't anything wrong with that for the series where it works, but I have the sense that Robert Jordan wouldn't want it to happen—and so I am against it happening. That being the case, it is my goal to do what Davenport suggested, and release the notes in as much detail as I am allowed.
I know he had planned outriggers; do you happen to know if any of the notes touch on that, or was all that info lost to the hands of The Greatest Foe? Regardless, thanks for advocating for releasing the notes. Also, squeeeeeeereplyingtoBrandonSanderson.
There is a tiny bit about the outriggers, mostly little tidbits. (Some are pretty cool.) Not a plot, really, but some character touchstones. Certainly not enough to write like we've done these last three, however. The notes are far, far more thin.
It was very interesting to read this while trying to figure out what scenes she was referring to...
I know you're incredibly busy on Stormlight 2, but if you have a few minutes, I would love to hear how you approached the notes that RJ left behind. I've heard the story about the ending and who killed Asmodean when you first visited Harriet's house, but where did you go from there? I assume you didn't just read all of the notes straight through...
Well, okay, this is going to be kind of long.
To understand my next step, you have to understand what we mean by "Notes." There are really three groups of these.
1) Robert Jordan's Worldbuilding Notes. These were in a series of dozens, maybe hundreds of files embedded chaotically inside of files inside of files, using his own system of notation. The notes reach all the way back to early books he was working on, as he was working on them. They aren't intended to be read by anyone other than him, and are sometimes very difficult to figure out. This is the group that Harriet has said, in her estimation, include a total wordcount equal to or greater to that of the published series.
2) The notes for the last book, gathered by his assistants Maria and Alan, with Harriet's help. These are far more focused on the last book, notes that RJ wrote specifically focusing on the last book. This is a much more manageable amount, maybe fifty or a hundred pages. It includes interviews that Alan and Maria did with RJ before he died, asking him what was to happen to certain characters.
3) Scenes for the last book, either in written form or dictated during his last months. This includes some completed scenes. (The last sequence in the book, for example. Also a lot of prologue material, including the scene with the farmer in The Gathering Storm, the Borderlander Tower scene in Towers of Midnight, and the Isam prologue scene from A Memory of Light.) A lot of these are fragments of scenes, a paragraph here and there, or a page of material that he expected to be expanded to a full chapter. This is different from #2 to me in that these are direct scene constructions, rather than "notes" explaining what was to happen.
Together, #2 and #3 are about 200 pages. That is what I read the night I visited Harriet, and that is what I used to construct my outline.
I took all of the items, but particularly the things in 2&3, and then I re-read the series start to finish, taking notes on character motivations, plots that had not been resolved, and foreshadowing. I used this to create a skeleton, using character touchstones from the notes (like Egwene's climactic moments in The Gathering Storm) to construct plot cycles.
Where there were big holes, I used my instincts as a writer and my re-read to develop what the story needed. From there, I started writing in viewpoint clusters. I would take character who were in the same area, and write their story for a chunk of time straight through. Then I would go back and do the same for another group of characters.
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.
He was not well on our final book tour, which was Knife of Dreams. He failed to receive a diagnosis until after the end of the tour. This is true of the disease amyloidosis in general. By that time his heart had received so much battering from the disease that it was simply failing. And it took about a year for that to happen.
It was so sad. I mean, he was a friend; I took it personally, and he was a brilliant, epic storyteller. There was nobody like him, and it was a terrible loss.
He had spoken publicly before that, that he would destroy anybody who tried to work in his universe, and he would sweep his hard disk three times to make sure that nobody could ever get anything out of it, but in his last weeks, he was telling us what needed to happen.
He wrote these very detailed notes. He dictated passages in the beginning and the end of this last book, and Harriet knew he wanted this series finished.
In 2005, Wheel of Time author Robert Jordan was diagnosed with a fatal blood disease, disrupting his plans to finish the beloved series. With his fans in mind, Robert Jordan worked diligently through his final days, writing outlines, notes, and manuscripts so that his masterwork could one day see completion.
His fans—the people who had stuck with him all these years from 1991 on—deserved closure. And, he had created an outline which gave them closure, and he wasn't able to finish it himself. We wanted Jim's story to be told.
A friend was staying with me in the week after Jim's funeral and put a print-out in front of me and said, "I think you need to read this." It was Brandon Sanderson's eulogy for Robert Jordan. And it was—it was beautiful. Such an expression of love for the books and for Robert Jordan's work. And it ended, "Mr. Jordan, you leave us silently, but you leave us trembling." And I thought, gosh, this is the attitude I would love to see. Brandon at this point was a published fantasy writer, so I called Tom and said, "I want one of his books to read." His world, his people, his conflicts were all clear in my mind. And I called Tom, and said, "Tom, I think this is the guy."
And she picked Brandon. And we're just delighted because we think nobody could have finished it as well.
I had no idea how to react to this. I could barely talk when I replied to Harriet. In fact, I sent her an email the next day. It said, "Dear Harriet, I promise I'm not an idiot." Because I couldn't get out words. Yes, I wanted to be involved in the Wheel of Time. No, I didn't think anybody else could write the Wheel of Time. What do you do when you're in that situation?
We met in December, and I picked him up at the airport, brought him back, and said I've got some hot soup on the stove. He said, "I'd rather have the ending if I could, please." [Laughs]
Which I sat in his chair and read, well into the evening that night.
Together, Brandon Sanderson and Team Jordan began building the strategy for finishing the last volume for the Wheel of Time.
Well, he was working with everything Robert Jordan had ever written, including all the notes and speculations, as well as the outline that Jordan dictated in those last weeks.
He intended this book to be enormous. Getting the notes, I said, yup, it's here. I can do this, but it's going to be over 2000 pages long. At some point Tor and Harriet discussed how long it was going. And so that's when they came to me and said, "We want to split it."
This outline was too complex. There was too much that needed to be told, too much story.
We didn't add to it. This is the length that it was always going to be. But in splitting it—what it allowed us to do is take three books and focus them. The Gathering Storm has a focus on Rand and Egwene. They were able to shine in a much more spectacular way because of that. And the things happening with Mat and Perrin could have very easily been overshadowed by Rand and Egwene, who have monumentous things going on.
These last two books—number one best sellers. Number one international best sellers, number one up here on the Globe and Mail, as well, the national paper. People read and realized that, yes, it wasn't Robert Jordan, but by god it was being finished properly. And it was being finished from Robert Jordan's notes and his ideas, and Brandon's talent was that he could capture the dream.
Since Robert Jordan wrote the last scene, that actually made this whole project mountains easier. I had a target to shoot at. While I didn't have a ton of written material from Robert Jordan that I could actually put in—there are about 200 pages worth of scenes and notes that needed to become somewhere around 2,500 pages [Books 12-14 by Sanderson total 2,556 pages]—a lot of those 200 pages were summaries of scenes he wanted. Robert Jordan wrote by instinct. He was what we called a discovery writer, so what was handed to me was a big pile of half-finished scenes or paragraphs where he wrote, "Well, I am either going to do this, this, or this. I was thinking of this, but it could be this." Yes, cracking an ending is hard, and the Wheel of Time had a lot of loose threads. My job was to take all those threads and weave them into an ending, which was a real challenge.
When I was handed this project by Harriet [Harriet McDougal, Robert Jordan's wife and editor], she handed it to me as a collaborator, not as a ghost writer. It's not like building a shelf from Ikea, which is good, because otherwise my creativity wouldn't have been engaged. She handed me full creative control for the first draft, and then we went into the editing phase where we really worked on it to make sure that it fit her vision and Robert Jordan's vision for the series. But going into it, nothing was off-limits. So I wrote them like I write any novel. Nothing is taken for granted, nothing is sacrosanct.
In a lot of ways the "why" or the "how" was not said, and in other places in the outline there were just empty holes where a character is in one place and 800 pages later, then another place.
[In the final book] we've got a lot of questions that still need to be answered. Robert Jordan did leave me instructions on which ones, in some cases, not to answer. There are things he wants to leave unresolved, and there are other things he said do answer this, and there are some things that he said either way. He left a lot of instructions about who lives and who dies, but there are also plenty of cases where I got to make the judgment call. It's a big, cool, awesome, scary thing, and all of the gloves are off. Anything can happen in this book, because I don't need to worry about setting up any future books.
Was it your decision to split the final installment into three books?
"Robert Jordan was always telling fans that this book was gong to be so big that they'd have to invent a new binding system to get it out the door. When I was offered the project, I got all his notes and then spent about five months constructing an outline until I'd built the ending that I felt he'd indicated. I felt that he wanted it to be this big epic story and when I have an outline, I can usually tell how long the story is going to be. I realised that it was going to be a pretty big book—I was estimating it to be about 800,000 words, which is just enormous. I told Harriet and the publisher that this is what Robert Jordan wanted and what the story deserves. They then asked me if there were any places where I could split it. I agreed to do that as long as they would let me decide where and how to do that. There are some natural break points but it has to be done the right way. I haven't expanded the outline or lengthened what I felt the story should be; I've just portioned it into three volumes instead of one massive volume."
So what can we expect?
"I can tell you a few things as Robert Jordan was once asked what the series was about and he said that 'It's about what it's like if you're a normal person who is told that the world is going to end unless you try and save it.' This end book is what everyone has been expecting. They call it the Last Battle, so it's the last showdown as there's this massive war going on. You can also expect the last chapter written by Robert Jordan himself. He always promised fans that he knew what the end of the series would be, so he sat down and wrote it before he passed away. It's gone into the book virtually unchanged by me. It's the goal I've been working towards all this time.”
Soon after I was tapped to help complete the series, I asked Harriet about the last scene of the book. (The one that Robert Jordan had, over the years working on the series, promised fans he knew in detail.) She told me that he had indeed written that scene—and though there were large swaths of unfinished portions of the ending that he hadn't had time to work on, he'd been determined to get that last scene on the page.
You can imagine my excitement. I flew out to Charleston for the first time in late 2007—before this, I hadn't read any of the materials, as Harriet preferred that I come get them in person. After a long flight from Salt Lake City to Charleston, Harriet picked me up at the airport and drove me to her house in the city. We got in at nine or ten, I recall, and she had soup warming on the stove. She asked if I'd like some. My reply was, "If it isn't too much trouble, I'd like to read the ending please . . ." Holding my enthusiasm was somewhat difficult.
So, I spent the next hours late into the night sitting in a chair beside Robert Jordan's computer (it had been moved, by coincidence, out of his office and into the sitting room) reading his ending to The Wheel of Time, then poring over the rest of the notes. I remember Harriet passing by once and asking—with a satisfied smile—"It's good, isn't it?"
And it is. As a Wheel of Time fan for nearly 20 years at that point, I found myself supremely satisfied. The ending is the right one. Somewhat unexpected, somewhat daring, but also very well done. I knew that whatever else happened—whatever mistakes I made—at least this ending would be there, as Robert Jordan intended. We've put it in almost untouched, with just a few edits here and there at Harriet's direction.
You're going to love it.
A lot of people are asking what it feels like to be done. That's an odd question to consider for a couple of reasons. In some ways, the Wheel of Time was "done" for me when I read Robert Jordan's last scene back in 2007. The work wasn't done, of course, and I had a very long road ahead of me. And yet, I'd read the ending. We managed to get it into the final book virtually unchanged, with only a few minor tweaks here and there. The sequence (it is more than one scene) that I am referring to most of the time when I talk about this encompasses the entire epilogue of A Memory of Light. Once you get there, you can know you're reading Robert Jordan's words, though of course there are other scenes scattered through the book that he worked on too.
So that was one ending, for me. Another came in January of last year, when I finished the rough draft of this book. Still, there was a great deal of work to do, but I was "done" after a fashion. From there, I transitioned from writing a new Wheel of Time book to doing revisions—and for the last time ever.
Another ending came for me when I handed the book over to Maria from Team Jordan to handle all of the final tweaks from the proofreads and copyedits. That happened late last summer, and with some regret, I stepped away from the Wheel of Time. Like a parent (though a step-parent in this case) waving farewell to a child as they leave the home, I no longer had responsibility for this book in the same way. I was done.
And yet, I wasn't. This month and next I'll be touring for the Wheel of Time. That will probably be the final ending, seeing all of you and sharing in your mixed joy and regret at the finale of this series. Over twenty-three years ago now, I picked up The Eye of the World for the first time, and my life changed. A lot of you have similar stories.
I know how you feel. I've been feeling it for five years now, ever since I read that last scene. There is no glossary in this last Wheel of Time book. We wanted to leave you with the memory of that scene, as Robert Jordan wrote it, for your final impression of the Wheel of Time.
I'm happy I can finally share that scene with you. After five years of waiting, I can talk about it with others and reminisce without having to worry about what I'm spoiling. I hope to chat with as many of you as possible in the upcoming months. For those who can't make it, I'll post some responses to frequently asked questions below.
May you always find water and shade.
January 8th, 2013
What about the outriggers? (The sequel trilogy to the Wheel of Time series that Robert Jordan had planned to write.)
It's not going to happen. Harriet and I are both firm on this. Robert Jordan wouldn't have wanted it to happen. He said that he wanted the series to be finished, but he did not want anything more. (He was even uncomfortable with the idea of someone like myself finishing the series.)
Beyond this, at the Q&A on Monday, Harriet revealed something I previously haven't been able to tell you but that I've known for quite some time—that Robert Jordan didn't leave much of anything in the way of notes for the outriggers. There are, quite literally, only two sentences of explanation from RJ telling us what the plot of the outriggers was to be about.
So no, no outriggers. I highly doubt you will see the prequels either, and for similar reasons. All good things must come to an ending. And this is ours.
During the past five years he worked on the series, Sanderson said, the material and notes Jordan left have made him a better author in his own right.
What were you thinking when you wrapped up the final chapter of the book?
I felt like a person who had just run a mental marathon. I was tired, I was satisfied, I was excited, and I was saddened. That was five years of my life writing, and twenty-something years of my life reading and working on it. It was really bittersweet. But you have to remember that that was tempered for me, because the ending that Robert Jordan had written—I had read that years ago. So in a lot of ways the series was already finished to me, and had been finished since 2007 when I read the ending.
That last chapter was his chapter. There were only minor tweaks that I put in; there's one scene that I added from a certain character's viewpoint. But basically, that whole ending sequence, the last chapter, and the epilogue, are Robert Jordan's. So it was more a matter of finally putting it in with the rest of the book. Now, it's finally done. The capstone that was finished five, six years ago can finally be slipped into place and the book can be complete. So all of those emotions were mixed together.
How extensive were the notes that you had to work with? Were all of the plot lines tied off, or did you have to find conclusions on your own for some of them?
Since Robert Jordan wrote the last scene, that actually made this whole project mountains easier. I had a target to shoot at. While I didn't have a ton of written material from Robert Jordan that I could actually put in—there were about 200 pages worth of scenes and notes that needed to become somewhere around 2,500 pages—a lot of those 200 pages were summaries of scenes he wanted. Robert Jordan wrote by instinct.
He was what we call a discovery writer, so what was handed to me was a big pile of half-finished scenes or paragraphs where he wrote, 'Well, I am either going to do this, this, or this. I was thinking of this, but it could be this.' Yes, cracking an ending is hard, and Wheel of Time had a lot of loose threads. My job was to take all those threads and weave them into an ending, which was a real challenge.
Robert Jordan's epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time, launched in 1990, quickly became one of the most popular series in the history of fantasy, though as the story continued year after year, swelling into many mammoth volumes, some fans wondered if the tale would ever be finished, especially after Jordan's death in 2007. But this month sees the release of A Memory of Light, the 14th and final volume, completed by author Brandon Sanderson, working off Jordan's notes.
"The last thing that Robert Jordan wrote is the last chapter of this book," says Brandon Sanderson in this week's episode of the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast. "I felt when I first read it that it was a satisfying ending. I felt it was the right ending. It's been my guidepost for all the work I've done on this."
Oh yeah, the characters. There are 2,000 of them. And that's the thing about the Wheel of Time—the writing is workmanlike. But the world sucks you in and doesn't let you go. Those 2,000 characters are at play across ages and continents, each with their own distinct languages, customs, food, ethnic groups, military tactics—oh my god, you could pretty much just blow a couple of months figuring it all out. Brandon Sanderson says he actually had to rely on the Wheel of Time fan community to keep it all straight in his head. He also had the notes that Jordan dictated on his deathbed and the very last chapter. Again, Harriet McDougal:
I picked him up at the airport and brought him back to my house, and said, well, I have some soup for your supper, and he said, what I'd really like is the end of the series.
There was some discussion about Brandon's suggestion that RJ wrote the entire epilogue, since we knew from his tweets while he was working on it that he had to modify the epilogue material, and we knew from Peter that Brandon wrote the Cadsuane scene (and possibly others; this has never been clarified). In the comments on this post on Facebook, Isabel asked some questions and got some answers from Peter. The last quote is from Dragonmount, in response to some fan assumptions about how much had been written by RJ.
One question: regarding the Cadsuane scene. It is said that this was added by you. Is that correct? Was Cadsuane's fate in RJ's notes?
Team Jordan said I could say that Brandon himself wrote the words of that little scene. Brandon is still being closedmouthed about what specifically came from the notes, but in general, Robert Jordan left quite a few notes on where people ended up at the end of the book.
Am I right to assume that her implied fate wouldn't have been put in, if the notes say something different? (assuming there were notes on it)
The notes about fates at the end were not contradicted.
What Brandon was given from RJ specifically on the last three books was 200 manuscript pages containing some finished scenes (including the final scene) and some summaries of other scenes, some lines of dialogue here and there, some "I might do this, or I might do this," etc. It's definitely not the last 120 pages of the book.
I will do a blog post soon about this and similar questions. However, I can't answer much because I don't know much.
He did not explain much about the epilogue, even in the notes.
How do you keep track of all those characters?
Lots of use of online resources. Also, Maria and Alan are invaluable assets for that. Brandon told a funny story about trying to figure out who was with Perrin, and Maria pulled out some notes from Robert Jordan that had a list of every single person from the Two Rivers that came with Perrin! Brandon also said he thinks there are more than 2800 named characters throughout the entire series.
[Side note: One person almost got himself lynched by asking a somewhat spoilery question, regardless of what people had been instructed...] Some characters die in A Memory of Light. How do you choose which characters to kill and which to keep alive?
[My note: Brandon tried to keep this out of spoilers and make it more general about writing and dealing with killing characters off in general.] In this book, Robert Jordan had left very specific instructions regarding the fates of some characters. He left a lot of notes, and some of those determined their fate. In general, characters have to be allowed to take risks in order to create a compelling story. There has to be a real danger for them, or the characters fall flat. Sometimes, that means characters are going to die. (Brandon added a nice bit that made the crowd laugh: "Which character can I kill off that will really piss everyone off and which no one expects?")
Who was the Aiel woman that Aviendha met on her trip to Rhuidean?
Nakomi. Also, RAFO, there's a hint in A Memory of Light.
(Later in the evening, he said that hint can be found between the chapter "The Last Battle" and the end of the book. He also said she came from deep in Jordan's notes, and he did not feel like he could give more information than that. Also, she might be explained in the encyclopedia, but no promises regarding that.)
This Q&A was later clarified by a Twitter conversation in which Brandon said that something he found deep in RJ's notes made him include Nakomi. He refused to confirm that Nakomi actually was in the notes.
How much was already completed when you took over the series?
Brandon referred to what Tom Doherty had previously said on the issue. He said there were about 200 pages when he took over. Also, the Epilogue in A Memory of Light was almost entirely written by Jordan with Brandon trying to bring everything else to that point.
Will the prequels be written?
The answer, directly quoted from Harriet, is, "This is it. Except for the Encyclopedia, this is it." There are not enough notes to write them, and Robert Jordan didn't want any sharecropping, once stating he would "run over his hard disks three times in a semi" before he'd let that happen (which makes Tom Doherty sad).
Robert Jordan left two sentences about the outriggers. Later, someone asked what the two sentences were. Harriet stated they contained spoilers, but they would be released at a later time, possibly six to seven months, possibly included in the Encyclopedia.
What was Brandon given to start his work?
He received one scene from each prologue—the first scene from The Gathering Storm that was dictated, the Kandori tower scene from Towers of Midnight, and one scene from A Memory of Light that I will not state since it contains a spoiler. There were large chunks of the ending, including the entire epilogue. He received fragments of Egwene's visit from her "special visitor" inThe Gathering Storm, and a proposal at the end of Towers of Midnight. There were also discussions of scenes, and answers from Team Jordan.
Ta'veren Tees was on site, selling T-shirts, playing cards, posters, and giving away Wheel of Time and Dragon temporary tattoos. Across from them, the last three books of the series were for sale from Barnes & Noble. The entire event was hosted by the College of Charleston Addlestone Library. While most of the action was downstairs, Wheel of Timers flocked to all three levels to look down from the balcony at the Q&A and signing below. Special Collections for the College had a number of displays available, containing other works by Robert Jordan, the books in various languages, and even first draft copies of The Eye of the World, along with pencil markings.
What happened to the fourth boy from the Two Rivers?
Jim originally had good plans for him later on, but when convinced to eliminate him, he realized how easy it was to kill off that story line.
Will the encyclopedia include only facts, or also speculations?
Everything will be things already known, or else more notes on the characters. And a few other goodies, like the Aes Sedai power scale.
On my tour I've been stopping to sign books in airport bookstores as usual. Years ago some of my fans nicknamed this "Brandalizing." Grammar Girl did a quick blog post about the term this week.
Here's a video of Harriet reading the wind scene from A Memory of Light at our signing this past weekend at the College of Charleston. Thanks, Jessica Crout! The Addlestone Library there is the home of Robert Jordan's papers. They had on display this very early draft of The Eye of the World with Jordan's handwritten edits on it. (Sorry my photo is so blurry.)
Sanderson, along with Rigney's widow, Harriet McDougal, will appear at an event at the College of Charleston's Addlestone Library on Sat. Jan. 12 at 3 p.m, where they will sign copies of A Memory of Light. The event will also debut the James Rigney Collection, made up of first editions, props, video interviews, and even an Apple computer with 4,000 pages worth of notes Rigney used to compose his masterpiece. McDougal donated the collection to the college last fall, but it is currently being processed by archivist Josh Minor, who's making his way through hundreds of boxes. The Wheel of Time series features thousands of characters, hundreds of villages, and meticulous research, so the library has a lot of work cut out for it.
"These papers document not just the context, contributions, and creativity of one very significant Charleston writer, but will be used by researchers exploring a popular global phenomenon," says Harlan Greene, the senior manuscript and reference archivist of special collections at the Addlestone Library. He thinks this collection could have as much popular appeal as the books themselves. "One of the most interesting parts of archival life is not knowing how the materials we preserve may be used by researchers," Greene adds. "Will fans want to touch the manuscripts? Will scholars want to see how plot and characters changed, or how Jim's editor Harriet influenced him? Will students of Arthurian legends want to check out Jim's sources? Or will others studying the effects of technology come to see if Jim's writing style changed as he moved from handwritten script to typing to computers?"
Greene says the entire collection of material is 50 linear feet long and includes tens of thousands of pieces of paper. The library is working on an organization system and will set up online exhibits that anyone can access, but it may still be a few months before the collection really ready for research purposes (and that's not very long, according to Greene). Right now, the public can visit the special collections section (on the third floor of the Addlestone Library) Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. through mid-February.
"We have on display right now the first pages of an early draft of the first novel in the series, which is sort of like ground zero for The Wheel of Time," Greene says. "There are lots of interesting PR-related materials and photos of Jim, ephemera that show his humor and generosity, documentation of all the variety of spin-off materials, and copies of the books in over a dozen different languages, as well as the first graphic novel version." And, of course, there are swords.
The library has also set up a blog dedicated to the processing process. Visit blogs.cofc.edu/thetruesource to see the state of the collection and some of its highlights.
The College of Charleston Friends of the Library will host author Brandon Sanderson and Harriet McDougal, Rigney's widow, at 3 p.m. on January 12 for a public book signing as they conclude their cross-country launch for A Memory of Light, which was released on January 8. Guests will have the opportunity to look at never-before seen early and edited manuscripts, handwritten notes and photographs from the Rigney Collection. Costumes and weapons depicted in the series will be on display, and T–shirts with mottos from the books will be on sale.
The James Rigney Collection also includes swords and scabbards, video interviews, an early Apple computer loaded with 4,000 pages of his notes, and first editions of his works in dozens of languages.
"We're having a really hard time containing our excitement," says Harlan Greene, Special Collections senior manuscript and reference archivist. "In this collection we have the literary manuscripts of one of the most popular writers of our time and a native of Charleston. Just as Jim blended fact and fantasy and the past and the future in his works, we now plan to employ both 'futuristic,' state-of-the-art technology and classic archival procedures to preserve the collection and make his papers as accessible to possible."
Recognized as one of the most prolific and influential fantasy writers of our time, James O. Rigney, Jr., created a richly detailed and vividly imagined series that has captivated readers around the globe. The series, which has often been compared to the work of J. R. R. Tolkien in terms of its magic and magnetic hold on readers, has been translated into more than 30 languages and sold more than 44 million copies worldwide since its beginning over twenty years ago.
Harriet McDougal, James Rigney's widow and editor, donated the collection to the College of Charleston last fall. "I wanted the papers to be in the college community," McDougal said. "Once the collection is processed, researchers, students and fans will have an insider's look into the one of the most legendary epic fantasy series."
There are, what? What are we up to, like 2800 named characters in the Wheel of Time? [laughter] It's more than two thousand; it was more than two thousand when I started, and it was like 2400 or something like that when I started, and I've added a few. So, how can we keep track of all of these characters? That actually is when people ask me, what the hardest part about this was, I often say that that was the hardest part. It's not just keeping track of them, because actually keeping track of them is somewhat easy; there's lots of fan resources, which I use. The Encyclopaedia-WoT is my favorite, though tarvalon.net runs a very nice Wiki which goes more in-depth and things. And keeping track—that's the easy part. The harder part is, Robert Jordan gave them all voices, right? Everybody talked in their own way, and was their own person, and when, you know, Perrin is traveling with like three random Wise Ones, they're all individual personalities, and so before I could write a scene, I had to go back and remind myself, how each of these three people...what their attitudes were, and how they spoke, that sort of thing. It was very difficult.
I don't know if you—I mean, I tell this story; I don't know if you guys have heard this before—but the level of detail Robert Jordan went into in the worldbuilding...there was one point where I was working on Towers of Midnight, and I sent an email to Maria saying, "I can't keep track of who is with Perrin. Do you have just a list somewhere?" And I was really just meaning the Wise Ones, right? And, you know, named characters. Maria comes back and says, "Well I just dug this out of the notes; I hadn't seen it before. Maybe this will help. It's a file called 'With Perrin'". I went, "Oh, good." And I opened it up...no, that's not what it is; it is the names of all the Two Rivers folk who haven't been named in the books yet. [laughter] ...who are traveling with Perrin, and often a little bit about each of them, and a list of several dozen names of people who haven't been named yet. That's the level of detail we're talking about with this, and it was a challenge; it was a challenge on all of us.
Fortunately, we did have Maria and Alan, who we should mention—Alan Romanczuk, who is also one of the assistants and very good at this sort of thing, and I would focus my writing, particularly in first draft, on just getting the emotional content of a scene down, right? Get the narrative flow down, make sure it's working, and I would try to get all the voices of the characters right, but I wouldn't worry as much about continuity. I would then send it to Maria, and she would send back this thing with all of these notes saying, "Oh Brandon. Oh Brandon, you can't do this." "Oh Brandon, you killed her." "Oh Brandon..." You know, stuff like that. You see her shaking her head over each of these things. And then we would try and fix all of the problems caused by that, and that's kind of how it went.
Not specifically against his wishes. If it was in the notes, talking about a character...one of our first requirements, and I put it on myself on this, was to avoid going in different a direction from Robert Jordan with anything, specifically because I didn't want these books to become about me. I wanted them to remain the Wheel of Time. Now, I had to be nudged by Harriet at several points early on. She would tell me, you have to change some of these things. You do have to be willing to write the book as it needs to be written; Robert Jordan wouldn't have stuck to this outline exactly, and if you did stick to it exactly, it would feel like it doesn't have any life to it.
And so, there are times, when I was working, and mostly these are plot things—I would say, "You know what, we need to change this." An example of this is in The Gathering Storm, there's a scene—it's not too bad; it's not a big spoiler [laughter]—but there are several scenes where Egwene is having dinner with the Amyrlin. Well, that was originally in Robert Jordan's notes as one scene, and I split it to two scenes, where there's a dinner, it breaks, and then we come back, and I put some things in between because with the narrative flow of that sequence, it felt more powerful for me to work with it that way. I didn't remove any of the things that Robert Jordan said to have happen, and used several of his scenes that he'd written to construct those, but in that case, I felt that moving it around like that made for a better book. And so that's the sort of thing I would change.
I will say that, early on, when I first met with them, I did say, "I would like to have a character that I can just kind of do whatever I want with," so that I have, you know...it was kind of, maybe hubristic of me or whatever—I wanted to do that, I'm like, "Can I have one to play with? I want an Asha'man to play with." And it was actually Maria who suggested Androl, and said "Go look at him; there's not a lot written about him. The personality, Robert Jordan doesn't have much written down for who he is, and he seems like he's well-poised to do this. That would be a very good one." So Androl, almost everything that's happening with him, Robert Jordan didn't say "Do it with him." There are things I have him doing that Robert Jordan said, in this notes, "This has to happen." But I specifically took Androl as a character and went places with him.
Okay, no spoilers about the book itself, please.
There are characters we've been with for twenty years or so who don't survive this book. How do you choose when characters meet perhaps an untimely end in a book? [laughter]
For this book in specific, there are characters that Robert Jordan left notes on requiring what would happen to certain characters; he was actually fairly detailed. There are a couple of cases where we made decisions on our own, and in any case, when a character dies in a book, I am trying to do what is best for that character and for the emotional beats of the storytelling. I don't look at it as killing off characters; I look at it as letting characters take risks, the risks that they would demand of me that they be allowed to take, and if those risks don't occasionally come with consequences, then there is no story to me, because there is no tension, and there is no possibility for things to go wrong, and without that possibility, I wouldn't be able to write the books. I would be unable to write novels if the characters were unable to have actual danger from the actions that they're taking.
And so, I make these decisions based on what the character demands and what the story demands. It's never easy. I don't sit there gleefully, as I do imagine certain writers doing [laughter], who will remain unnamed [laughter], saying, "What two don't they expect me to kill, and how can I do it in a really, really brutal way?" [laughter] And that's a certain skill that certain authors have; that's not how I approach it. It's what the story demands of me, is how I approach it, and in some cases what Robert Jordan demanded of me. I agree with everyone that he killed, though. [laughter] I felt that it was right for the story.
Fortunately I can fall back on Tom Doherty, who answered this question, so I don't get in trouble. And I don't usually—I get in trouble a little bit sometimes. [laughter] There are certain things that I have to be careful not to say, to get into spoilers and things like that, but Tom Doherty did answer this. There were about 200 pages of material that was done, and that did include lots of different things. It included completed scenes; it included dictations that he'd done while he was sick; and it included fragments of scenes, and in some places, some Q&As with Maria and Alan, where they would say "You said this about a character; can you go more in depth on that?" And then there's like a page of him talking about that character and that scene, and those 200 pages were given to me, and I have used that as a guide in writing the books.
There were holes. There were some very big holes, which actually was exciting to me in some ways, because it allowed me to actually be part of this, rather than following a very strict "This happens, this happens, this happens." In fact, they weren't in order, which was also exciting to me, because I work from an outline, and Robert Jordan didn't. Robert Jordan knew where he was going, but he would often discover what was going on as he got the characters there. They call that a 'gardener'; it's George R.R. Martin's term for writing; it's how George R.R. Martin; it's how Robert Jordan wrote books; it's how Stephen King writes books. There are others of us that, we are more 'architects'; we build a structure, and then we work from that, and I was able to take all of these things and build a structure from it, and one of the gems in there was what is now the epilogue of the book you're holding, which was finished almost in its entirety—that whole sequence, with very minor tweaks by us—and that ending is the last scene that Robert Jordan talked about many times, that he knows how the book ends; he knows how the series ends. He did write that before he passed away, and that became like my goalpost; that was the thing I had to hit, was that scene, and everything leading up to that was to make that scene work. And so, when you get there, you can read...that epilogue is all Robert Jordan. Significant chunks of the rest of the books were too, but that one, you can just use as a marker, and say "Okay, this is his ending."
Excellent question, and the answer is it developed over time. Specifically, after I read that ending, I started to reread the whole series—the first time I'd read the series knowing I was going to be part of the series which...you have to approach it very differently, knowing you're going to be a part of it. And I took all of those notes, and I reread the series, and I built an outline using Robert Jordan's scenes as touchstones. A lot of times when you're building an outline—even Robert Jordan who was more of a discovery writer, I heard from Harriet did it this way—you kind of plan your book like you would plan a road trip, where you know you're starting in D.C. and you're going to end in San Diego, and outlining for me is putting in between them all the road markers of places you're going to go, and so I laid down this map where I said, "Okay, here's a scene he wrote; let's go there. Here's another scene he wrote; then we'll go there. Here is another scene..." and I used those as my touchstones to get me across this map toward the ending.
And I then had places where there were gaps, where I didn't know what happened in between, and that's where I would fill it out. "This is what I'm going to do here..." And I actually did a lot of that with Harriet and Maria and Alan in Charleston where we sat down, and I actually got big sheets of butcher paper—because I can be a visual thinker at times—and I would start with a character and start writing down where I thought they should go, and pitch different things to them. And I usually had a couple of different ideas, and they'd say, "Oh, this feels right; this doesn't feel right," that sort of thing. And together, we hashed that all out for all three books, because they were one book in our head then. One very long book, but one book. [laughter] And I then took those sheets of butcher's paper and typed it all out into a big, massive outline, which then I used across the next five years, working on the books, as my data post, and I used that to point me toward that ending. And that's where it came from.
Hi. I'm Zach [?], and I'm from here in Orem, and I kind of feel like a child with all these people that have read it for so long. I'm pretty new to the series—just a couple of years—but I love it just as much. And I'm really grateful you guys brought your assistants with you as well, because I know, with the creative writing process and writing, it takes a lot more than just one person.
And so I was wondering, probably more directed to Brandon, how did you keep everything together? How did you encompass everything... [laughter] Just a little idea; I just wanted to know a little bit about how you kept up with everything.
It's interesting. I am somewhat absentminded in a lot of things in my life, but I don't forget stories. Stories stay in my head, and perhaps that's why I forget everything else. [laughter] I can remember stories that I was planning to tell twenty years ago, and I've still got the details in my head, and I'm ready to write it at some point; I just haven't gotten around to it.
That said, a lot of the minutiae that isn't part of the soul of the story to me—it's very important, but it isn't part of the soul of the story—and that sort of thing, I do need to keep track of, and so recently we've been using the Wiki, and the Wiki has worked really well; that's for my own books. For the Wheel of Time, I just let other people make the Wikis, and I use theirs. [laughter] So the Encyclopaedia-WoT—Bob Kluttz, and Encyclopaedia-WoT—and if there's anyone here from Tar Valon who worked on their Wiki, the Tar Valon Wiki is fantastic, and I really liked the Tar Valon Wiki. And so, those were two things that I used for the simple questions, the questions they couldn't answer. Maria was like our version of the Brown Ajah that has been gathering all sorts of things and getting them ready for us whenever we have requests about them and whatnot, so it's been very useful.
She doesn't have a live owl on her desk, but she does have a large plastic iguana that has a cigarette in its mouth. [laughter]
And I have two beautiful brown shawls proving I am of the Brown Ajah. [cheers, applause]
My name is Niels Oleson. Tai'shadar [sic] Manetheren, and Tai'shadar [sic] Pleasant Grove. [laughter] That's where I'm from! Go Vikings!
The one question I have is—this wouldn't be a panel without asking—who killed Asmodean? [laughter, cheers] And I know you can't answer it, but is it in the book?
For those who missed it, it's in the, um...the glossary of Towers of Midnight. [boooo] It's actually mentioned in there who killed Asmodean. [laughter] Towers of Midnight, last book; it came out last year. Two years ago. [laughter] So, you've got your answer; you just have to go find it in there.
And let me give a little explanation on that, so you guys who haven't heard this story—I know many of you have—when I first went to Charleston—this was 2007, in December—I had signed the contracts, not knowing how much was written of the book or what was even available, because you know, that's how it had to go; I had to sign all the NDAs and things before I could see, so I flew out there, and picked up the material, so to speak—the material we call the notes and everything—and I got in very late because it's—you know, flying to Charleston from Salt Lake is uh, and you gotta connect at Atlanta, and things—you know, I get in late, and we walk in; Harriet picks me up from the airport, brings me in, and she—(to Harriet) it was bean soup you had made, or something like that—and you're like, "Would you like some food; I know you've been flying a long time..." I said, "No, I'd like the ending, please, thank you." [laughter]
So she laughed and got me the materials, and handed them to me in a stack, and I went in to the room—the sitting room—and I sat down to read them, and on the very top was a post-it note, on top of a page of a fan...fan information, like it printed off from the internet—a fan theory—and all it said is, "This is right." And the fan theory was about who killed Asmodean, and that's all we had, was a "This is correct." Maybe they have more—maybe Maria has more—but all I knew was, "This is correct." I didn't know the how, the why, or anything that this person...why they did this.
And so when it came time to put it in the books, I kind of almost jokingly said, "We should put it in the glossary, because we don't know, so we'll just put it in for fans in the same way we got it, which is just a post-it note." [laughter] "...We'll stick it in the book like a post-it note, in the glossary," and that's because we don't have the full story. And so we went ahead and did that, and then when I was writing the book, I actually worked it into the text, and Harriet wrote back and said, "No, no. I like this glossary thing; it's going in the glossary." [laughter] So, we cut it out of the text and left it in the glossary, and the idea is, you get to feel like we felt because I didn't know anything more than "This is it," so I gave it to you as transparently as possible so that you could have the same feeling of confusion that I had.
And did you see where he got Moghedien from my basic character? [laughter]
Hi, I'm Michael Chantry from Podunk [?] Idaho—[claps] someone knows the area. Thank you for the books; they're amazing. Thanks Robert Jordan for the books. I like them so much I actually named my second child Perrin. [applause]
My question is to both Brandon and Harriet. I know you love this new book, A Memory of Light, that you've created for us, and out of it, is there anything that we... What is your favorite part? What did you enjoy most about it? If you can give us a chapter, a section...anything. I know you're going to say "the whole thing." [laughter]
(flips through book) [laughter] There's a 200-page chapter in this book. [hoots, buzz of talking] I felt it very thematically important, and my favorite part is right at the end of that chapter and the beginning of the next chapter, and the next chapter is actually very short, and so really, it's probably Chapter 39, but with the lead-in at the end of chapter 38.
And Harriet, do you have a favorite part?
(talks to Peter) 37 and 38? Okay, 37 and 38. Peter knows these things better than I do. [laughter]
Well, I love the end of Chapter 23—the final sequence—and as you're aware from Brandon's other books, I mean a lot of the chapters will have a piece here, and then there's a two-line space and you jump five hundred miles away, and so on, but the last segment of 23 I think is just super. But there are an awful lot of things that I do love in this book; the scene I read for you is one of my favorites; there's more of it, but I thought, "Oh, I don't know; I think I'm getting on too long," because we hadn't quite timed it out. I think it's a wonderful book. [laughter, applause]
I know that the question wasn't directed up here to me, but I think I definitely need to say that—without being cliché—the ending, the epilogue, was far and away everything I could have hoped it was, and it was my favorite part of the book. It was just...I can't wait for all of you to eventually read it, and hopefully have the same kind of reaction that I did. It's pretty awesome.
I can talk a little bit more about that, because...I told you the Asmodean story, but next under that sheet was this, was the...were the scenes that Robert Jordan had written for the book. And so, that included sections from the prologue, which got split into various pieces of the various prologues of the three novels; sections out of the book; and then this ending, the epilogue, and it's one of the most...one of the scenes where you're able to preserve, a sequence that's the most close to the way Robert Jordan left it. Because a lot of scenes he'd leave, he'd leave like a paragraph, and then it's like I have to expand that into, or I have to work a whole thing and then have that paragraph in.
There's a famous scene, for instance, with Verin in Gathering Storm where he left, you know, the kinda...what you would imagine is the important parts, but it's only the important parts, and then it doesn't have a lead-in or an exit to the scene, and so I had to write up and then lead in to what he'd written, and then lead out of it, and that sort of stuff. And this, it's actually...we've got complete sequences that he wrote before he passed away. And so, when you get to that epilogue, you can know...there's some very non-touched-by-the-rest-of-us stuff that he had in a very good shape to be published before he passed away.
And I should have thought of that, but as he read it in 2007—and so did I, and I had known some bits of it for years before that—but it really is splendid.
Thank you very much. [applause]
So, I got everything at once. There are two things that stand out that are moments when I was looking through the notes and I was like, "Oh!" And then there was one that I'm like, "Oh no." [laughter]
The two that were "Oh!" were, in Gathering Storm where Egwene gets a special visitor, and colors of dresses are mentioned. [laughter] That one was kind of mind-boggling, and that's one of the things that Robert Jordan had complete. Not—I had to write into it and write out of it, but the important parts you're thinking about were done. The second scene was in another section that he had complete, and this is where, at the end of Towers of Midnight, someone you haven't seen for a long time and someone else have a romantic moment together, and that surprised me. I was not one that was expecting that—it's well-foreshadowed, but I just hadn't been expecting it. I actually went to Team Jordan, and I'm like, "This? I—What?" And they're like, "No, it's in there; here, look at this, look at this," and all the foreshadowing, and I had just completely missed it. And so, those two were the surprising moments for me.
The kind of "Oh no" moment was when...he didn't actually write the scene, he just made a sentence that said—oh, someone's plugging their ears because they don't want spoilers; I'm trying to talk around the spoilers, so—in Gathering Storm, there is a scene where a certain member of the Forsaken gets spanked [laughter], and Robert Jordan wrote, "This happens, and she gets spanked." And I'm like, "I'm not going to write a spanking scene; I've never written a spanking scene before!" [laughter] And I was kinda like, "Come on, Jim, do you really have to do this?" But I was like, it was in the notes, and there was no good reason not to [?] that scene, so I went ahead and wrote that scene.
Well I can, but it's a spoiler. Later, I certainly will, but right now that is a spoiler, in the two sentences.
The question references the outriggers, which was a sequel trilogy that Robert Jordan had intended to write to the Wheel of Time, involving some of the characters. We can't say much about it. You can find out more online, because we don't want to give spoilers, but he only left two sentences telling us what was going to be in those, and so it's basically impossible to write them, even if we had wanted to.
Well, if he hadn't expressed himself so thoroughly, that before he let other people write in his universe, he would take his hard drives and run over them with a semi three times to be sure that that didn't happen, and it's...I mean, since there was literally two sentences, it would be very much a sharecropping operation—exactly what he didn't want to have happen.
By specific instruction from RJ, the Tinkers have not found their song as of the end of A Memory of Light.
The song of growing is not their "Song." The Song is a much more deep and philosophical concept, perhaps unattainable.
Do you imagine that Rand teaches "the song" to the Tu'athan after the events of A Memory of Light?
Rand does not know The Song. Anything he'd try to teach them, they would not accept as The Song.
Wait, are you saying Rand's song that Mat recognized wasn't the Tinkers' song?
The Tinker "Song" is an ideal that goes far beyond any song that has actually ever existed.
I put it in as RJ instructed, and I know nothing more about it than fandom does, I'm afraid.
Popular theory is that from his time with the Dark One/Creator/Pattern, he's able to manipulate The Pattern a bit.
This is a good theory.
What's your opinion on how pipe lighting was or could have been done even if we don't have RJ's answer?
Ha. I agree with some of the fan discussions.
Is Rand the missing link between the Pattern and the Creator himself, possibly even the balancer of light/dark?
That's one possible theory.
How did Rand light the pipe at the end of A Memory of Light?
I know no more on this than fandom does, I'm afraid. RJ did not explain.
I still can't figure it out...how did Rand light his pipe? Is he in Tel'aran'rhioid? Is everybody??
Can you explain how Rand lit his pipe in the last scene? Did he discover a new power? Is he a new power?
I'm afraid I don't know anything more than fandom does about this. RJ did not leave notes on the matter.
There are far more reasons, worldbuilding wise, to believe it was real than to believe it was illusion.
Is Rand's soul in Moridin's body?
Ha. Right to the point, are you? Let's just say that trickery is not likely in this case.
Can you confirm that Rand's body was burned at the end of A Memory of Light?
Okay, fine. Yes, I will confirm that Rand's body was indeed the one that was burned. :)
Why didn't anybody notice when a supposedly-dead Moridin got up and walked away?
I'd say coincidence. But there aren't many of those in the WoT world.
Seems like a conversation between the Creator and Rand was missing where "switch" and Alivia's role in it are laid out—thoughts?
I believe that RJ included everything he wanted in this sequence.
Why did Rand switch bodies at the end and why is he going incognito now? Did not understand that part.
RJ wrote these scenes, and intended to leave them as is. I don't think me delving into explanations is what he'd want.
Did the bonding between Rand, Nynaeve, Elayne, and Min transfer over to the new body?
Yes, though I don't know how or why.
Why did the bond survive the body switch at the end of A Memory of Light?
I don't know. RJ did not explain this one to me.
How were Rand/Elan able to switch bodies?
How did Rand wind up with Moridin's body?
Could you explain further about the body switch and how it was possible?
This is one that I'm not answering, I'm afraid. RJ wanted some things about the ending to remain ambiguous.
Dobraine makes it. RJ's only note on him for the last book was that he was at Merrilor when Rand/Egwene clashed. Dobraine...
...was one I kept meaning to find a place to mention, but never quite got around to working it in.
The husk that Rand sees, which gave birth to the void. Second: Almost all, but a few were left open and decided by us.
What happened to Shaidar Haran? He seems to have dropped off the face of Randland.
Rand sees him as a husk that gave birth to the void.
No, he didn't, but I just couldn't fit it in logistically.
Mat/Perrin Rand/Perrin and Rand/Mat from these two books was my nod toward that.
I can't remember what RJ has said about when a spirit is linked to a body in WoT terms.
RJ said viability.
I thought that's what he had said. So I'd say there is a chance. (But as you can guess, the notes don't say.)
Describe for me the process. Tell me about how Robert Jordan worked on the books in the last few months of his life.
Mostly by dictation. He began by saying something about the last book one Saturday night. And two friends were visiting us at the time—one who very luckily had worked in her past as a court reporter—so she began taking copious notes. I tried, but I was just staring at my darling and listening to the story pour out of him—I was no go at taking the dictation. She was, although she thought the hero that he was talking about was the 'Dragoon Reborn'. (laughs) Dragoons are big in Charleston history. And she took very good notes, and the other friend went out at midnight to buy a tape recorder. So from there on we were just recording him and going back with questions, and that's how he worked in those last months.
And I understand that he—the last scene, which I think you're referring to—he wrote that completely himself?
Did he have that in mind the whole time? Because I have to tell you, when I got the book in the mail last week, I turned to the end and read the last scene. I'm that kind of person.
(laughs) Yeah, I think he had it in mind the whole time—from before he started The Eye of the World. He thought very far ahead. I remember once we went out to lunch just after he'd finished The Eye of the World, and over lunch he wanted to talk about what would happen to a Maiden of the Spear who had a child. And that doesn't turn up until where? Book four?
I don't think so, yeah.
But he worked far ahead. And he did have the overall arc of the story in mind all the time—think of the prophecies.
That's true, yeah.
Oh, boy. So, the story is, I was a fan of the series—I picked the first one up when I was fifteen, and that was in 1990—and I'd been reading them all along; they are part of what inspired me to become a writer. I eventually broke into publishing myself in 2005, and two years later, Robert Jordan passed away without having finished the end of this series that I'd been following all along. And, like a lot of fans, I was heartbroken. I mean, we'd [inaudible] almost twenty years of following these characters. And one day, I got a call on the phone. I had not applied for this; I didn't know I was being considered. It was his wife. I didn't know her, but she had read my book—she had read my book Mistborn—and she had heard that I was a fan of the series, and had looked into some of the things I'd written, and then she just said, "Would you like to finish it?"
Now, this is a major best-selling series; I'm a newbie author with a couple of books out. It was like getting hit by a freight train. And there's all this continuity and all these characters....it was a massive undertaking. I was scared out of my wits, to be perfectly honest, but honestly, I almost said no because of that, but there was that piece of me—the fan—that said, "Look, if you say no to this, and someone else comes along, and they do a bad job, it's going to be your fault, Brandon." So my own conscience was like, "I gotta do this. If Robert Jordan can't do it, they're going to have somebody do it. I've gotta do it." So I threw myself into it, and you know, the most interesting thing is, how have I done it? Well, I've had great resources, and part of those are fan resources. What the internet allows us to do with Wikis and things like this is, the fans have gotten together and created these detailed outlines and chronologies and all of these things, which have just been wonderful. You don't expect that, you know, but the fans do a better job than we do, as writers, sometimes, of keeping track of all of these things, so I've relied on their resources.
I do think I've been able to do some fun things with the series, as a fan, that I've been wanting to do, from reading it since I was a kid, but that's actually a weird things because, as a fan coming on, I had to be careful. You don't always want to do what the inner fan wants you to do; otherwise it just becomes like a sequence of cameos and inside jokes. So I had to be very careful, but there are some things that I've been wanting to have happen, and the notes left a lot of room for me to explore. I did get to have a lot of creative involvement in it; it wasn't just an outline, which has been awesome. You know, if it had been mostly done, they would have been able to hire like a ghostwriter to clean it up, and they didn't have that. They needed an actual writer, and so there are lots of plots I got to construct, and as a fan, that's awesome.
But he did write the last chapter. He wrote it before he passed away. He was very dedicated to his fans—there's great stories—he was on his deathbed dictating, and I have those dictations where his cousin Wilson is sitting there with a tape recorder just listening to him, and I got all these things passed on to me. It was really an interesting process. I was actually handed about two hundred pages, what would become 2500. Yeah, 2500. It's multiple volumes; it got split into three books. But, got handed two hundred pages, and in these are scenes he wrote, dictations that he did, fragments of scenes he worked on, little comments he made, Q&As with his assistants where it says, "This is what's going to happen, this is going to happen..." I just describe it like, "Imagine there's this beautiful Ming vase, and someone puts it in a paper bag and smashes it up, dumps out half the pieces, hands it to you, and says, 'Alright. Build the vase exactly as it was going to be, as it was before.' " That's kind of been my job on this.
Speaking of adaptations, of course, you've taken over Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series and sped up the pace of the story considerably, so as a long-time reader there, thank you for that!
Credit needs to be given to Robert Jordan; he started to speed up in Book 11 [Knife of Dreams]. In fact, I've read interviews where he admits that the focus was a little bit wrong in Book 10 [Crossroads of Twilight], which is the one that the fans complain about being the most slow, and he himself changed that for Book 11 and picked up the pacing. And I like spectacular endings. When I build my books, I start from the end and work forward with my outline. I write from beginning to end, but I outline end to beginning, because I always want to know that I have a powerful, explosive ending that I'm working toward. Endings are my deal: if a book or a film doesn't have a great ending, I find it wanting. It's like the last bite, the last morsel on the plate, so I get very annoyed with the standard Hollywood third act, because they seem to play it most safe in Act Three, and that's where I most want to be surprised and awed. That's where it's got to be spectacular. You've got to give the reader something they're not expecting, something they want but don't know it, in that last section.
Does that go for something like your Mistborn Trilogy; did you start with the end of the trilogy or go book-by-book?
I plotted all three backwards and then wrote them all forwards. I had a great advantage writing those books, because I sold my first book, Elantris, in 2003. The nature of how books are 'slotted' into release dates is that a new author doesn't get the best slot. They want to give each author a good launch, but they can't give them in the really prime slots. So we had a two-and-a-half year wait, and usually you have a year between books. That meant I had three-and-a-half years before Mistborn would be out, so I pitched the entire trilogy together and wrote all three before the first one came out.
Is that something you have in common with Robert Jordan, because re-reading the prologue to the first book you think, 'This guy knows how it's going to end'.
He actually wrote the ending that I worked towards. The last pages were written by him before he passed away. He always spoke of knowing the ending, so I think we do share that. He was a bit more of an explorer in his writing than I am. He knew where he was going, but getting there he wove around a lot. You can see that in the notes I've been given; he jumps from scene to scene. So there's a difference there, but he really loved endings. And that ending is really great; I think fans are going to love it.
Well, you've got so many things to tie up. And Robert Jordan, he knew that he was going to die. He knew that, and so he was writing as fast as he could. He got these notes. And you're working off of these notes, which is so great for the fan base, 'cause we get a feel for what Robert Jordan had in mind. I do have one question that everyone is asking me to ask you. [laughs] Are we going to find out who killed Asmodean?
Yes. He left notes about who killed Asmodean. To be included in the book. Harriet's decided where it goes. I can't tell you which of the three books it's going to appear in. But it is going to be in there and he did write the ending himself, of the entire thing.
Which is just wonderful. It makes this book possible because I know what the ending is. He left a lot of material through the middle too, as well. But he left that ending. He'd been promising us for years that he knew the ending of the series. And he did. And he wrote it down. And so I'm really working towards the goal of getting to that ending and working with it in mind and so, yeah, you don't need to worry that the ending won’t be Robert Jordan's ending, because he wrote that himself.
That is great to know. I didn't know that. Well, that is awesome.
I tried to avoid talking about this much before because I don't want you to focus on what's Brandon and what's RJ, but now that it's all out, I do have a little more freedom. One thing is that early when I went to Charleston, I felt RJ was always adding characters, so I didn't want to add too many. I wanted to show something happening at the Black Tower, so Androl became my character that I took and expanded on from minor to main character. Androl himself and his relationship with Pevara was me. I felt the series needed it, and Iâ€™ve always wanted an Asha'man to play with, so to speak.
More generally, for The Gathering Storm I have said RJ worked a lot on Egwene's viewpoints. Not as much on Rand. Rand was more me, Egwene was more RJ. In Towers of Midnight, RJ worked a lot on Mat and not much on Perrin. So if it's Mat, it's more likely to be RJ. If it's Perrin, it's more likely to be me. In A Memory of Light he worked mostly on beginning and end, not much on the middle. Merrilor and the last few chapters are a lot of RJ. In between, it's a lot more me.
(Prefaced his answer by reminding everyone to avoid spoiler questions, and made it clear that this one did not cross that line) When I began to work on the books, I felt that with each book, it seemed that Robert Jordan usually took a side character and made them more of a main character. As I was outlining the series, I decided I wanted to take a side character and make them into more of a main character, but there wasn't a specific person in the notes designated to do that with. But I felt that we really needed somebody at the Black Tower, because of all the things going on at that time in the notes, and we needed another viewpoint there.
During my second trip to Charleston, this would be April/May of 2008, we used big sheets of butcher paper, outlining what was going on with these as a visual aid. I wanted an Asha'man to have a sequence of major viewpoints. Maria and Alan, who were Robert Jordan's assistants, and are now Harriet's assistants, chatted about it a moment and said you should use Androl, because there's not a lot about him, he's pretty much a blank slate and you can go wherever you want with him, which was really exciting for me. I then pitched the Talent of gateways for him, and they liked that.
Shortly after I got home, I got in the mail a printout or photocopies, of magazine or book pages from Harriet about leatherworking, and she had written on it, "I know that Jim had planned to use this in the book somewhere, is there anywhere that you can fit it in". Well I'm developing this character, let's make him a leatherworker. So I used that in building the personality of who this character was, and in that way, there was some of Robert Jordan in the character, even though I was taking a blank slate and going my own way with him. And that's where Androl came from for the last three books.
The notes? The notes are more words than have been published in the entire series.
Harriet, did you hear that I tried to make one file out of the notes? Did Maria tell you? Earlier this week, I actually said people ask this all the time, I'm going to have an exact word count for them. So I took every one of the notes, and I compiled them into one Word document. It got to 32,000 pages, and Microsoft Word said 'I can't count any further', and my computer crashed. Thirty-two thousand pages.
So the answer is no!
The whole series is ten thousand, okay? And this was thirty two thousands pages. It crashed my computer, Harriet, it was hilarious. It was at four million words plus counting, it was continuing to go, and then it couldn't go any further.
I asked Sanderson if we'll ever find out how Rand lit the pipe in the epilogue.
He said that nowhere in Jordan's notes did it say how the pipe was lit, but that Harriet had a couple of theories, the main one being: with it being a new Age, there's a new way of doing things, and even some new magic.
Was the Last Battle chapter in A Memory of Light 190 pages long because that was how Jordan wanted it?
No, Brandon made this decision himself because he felt like none of the characters could put their weapons down during this stretch, so he wanted the reader to be in the same predicament and not be able to put the book down.
When asked about the ending he said he thought Robert Jordan left it open so the reader could fill in what happened for themselves. Then he said that he thought Rand probably did go talk to Tam before he left but maybe not Lan.
We went out to the signing, and it was overwhelmingly crowded without being oppressive. The questions and answers were almost identical to those asked at other signings, as my fellow keepers have already reported on. No outriggers, WoT encyclopedia next year, and stories about the notes and the writing process.
The most interesting piece was on Androl, who was almost wholly Sanderson's creation. Jordan had many view points at the Tower, and Sanderson collapsed it into one, giving the soldier a power that Sanderson wished had been in WoT since his youth. Apparently, Jordan had a book of leather working he had intended to use somehow, and Sanderson gave that skill to his character in homage.
I actually should probably do a few frequently asked questions as well. For those wondering, there is an encyclopedia in the works. (applause) This was something that Harriet's been working on for years, and (to Harriet) I'll just let you mention about it, if you would.
I started keeping a list of proper nouns with The Eye of the World. I didn't know what I was up against. (laughter) Because I began, just keeping the list, without any chapter references, with The Great Hunt I began adding chapter references, and every book since then has been combed through. The last book, we had an intern, and we said, "Yeah!" (laughter) "You can code the names, and please put in when they die, what chapter, if anybody dies."
So anyway, this thing has been in progress from the beginning, and it will take us a year to figure out exactly how to organize it, what to leave out, what to add in. As Brandon has said, there are 32? 38,000 pages of notes. The entire series is ten thousand pages, so there's a lot of stuff in the notes. Brandon tried to put it all into one document, and when it got to that far, his computer stopped counting, and then it crashed. (laughter) So there's a lot of material.
Yeah, it wasn't even funny. My poor little laptop's like, "What have you done to me?" (laughter) I thought, you know, because Harriet's often said, "Oh there's more notes than there are words in the entire series combined," and so I thought, "Oh, I'll find out exactly how many there are." No, I didn't find out how many there are; I just crashed my computer. But yeah, she has said that some of the things from the notes will end up in the encyclopedia, some tidbits and things that you don't already know, so that means I can still RAFO questions when you ask me. (laughter)
...and I got that first RAFO part, which was then answered in this book. And I was wondering if that question that I gave to Robert Jordan so many years ago, and he gave that wonderful answer, was the reason [?] or was it...[?]
(laughs) You're dog girl. Yes, you are! I will say...there's an inside joke here. Once, this wonderful young woman asked Robert Jordan what would happen if you balefired yourself through a gateway, and what exactly did he say?
He said, "Young woman, I need you to go have an affair—with man, woman, or German Shepherd; it doesn't matter. Either way, you need to get a life." (laughter, applause)
Now, I, uh...(laughter continues)
I also happened to then, several years later, marry a man who also read, and this is our daughter Aviendha.
I don't have one either, and I'm worried...my big question was always about gateways, and when I began reading the series, as soon as I discovered them, I started to think about what would happen, cause I'm a magic system guy, right? And I'm like, "Oooh, what could you do with this? What could you do with this?" In fact, I started taking notes on what I could do, and they sat there in my notes file for years and years because I eventually started moving away from things I had seen done by other authors, and that meant, specifically the few things I was most interested in in the Wheel of Time. I didn't end up ever writing a magic system using. gateways and the World of Dreams, the way Robert Jordan had it. I avoided these things intentionally. And yet I had all these notes of things that I would like to have done, if I ever did a magic system with them.
Lo and behold, I got that opportunity, and so I found ways to....when I got the project, I didn't want to come in and make any sweeping changes—that wasn't my goal—but there are some places where I felt it appropriate to add some of my touch to the books, and one was with the gateways. I didn't want to be spending a lot of time doing anything with the magic system, you know—inventing a lot of new weaves, or anything like that—but I did want to expand some parts.
And so I actually....I went to Charleston, and we needed a new viewpoint character, specifically someone in the Black Tower—we hadn't had...we didn't have the right viewpoint character for the Black Tower—so I said, is there an Asha'man you guys think that I could take over, so to speak, and really flesh out and make into a more...you know, elevate a side character to a medium level character, which is something Robert Jordan frequently did in the series, and they came to the decision that Androl was the person that I should take, and I gave him the gateway Talent because I wanted to explore what happens with gateways.
And so, right there....we are all on the same wavelength; it wasn't necessarily me trying to answer your question. It was me answering questions to myself as a young man reading the series, wondering a lot about gateways. And so, Androl was a lot of fun.
In fact, there's another story there. At one point, I'm working on the series, and I get in the mail this envelope—it's a manila envelope from Charleston, and in it are a bunch of photocopied pages, and Harriet has written on the front of them: "Jim planned to use this somewhere. Can you fit it in?" And what it was was a detailed explanation from the viewpoint of a leatherworker about how one goes about using leather, and leatherworking. And this is the sort of detail, craftsman-style sort of things that Robert Jordan really liked to find places for that sort of detail in the books, and meanwhile, I've been sitting here trying to build a character for Androl, and I'm like, "Okay! I've got a place for it." And that's how Androl became a leatherworker, is from that stack of pages from Robert Jordan; it was just a photocopy of a leatherworker talking about their work.
So, there's some Androl stories. And so the answer is, it's half to you, but it's mostly to me (laughter). It's to both of us.
The answer is a complicated one dealing with the creative process. One part of the answer is I had a lot longer to get ready for it than you did. In fact, I was building the outline from this out of Robert Jordan's notes.
We talked about the notes. I was handed two things by way of notes. One was a stack of 200 pages. And this is the writing Robert Jordan did for the last book, and including the Q&As he did with his assistants, where they would say, "Okay what's going to happen with this character?" And he would talk about it for a page or so, and they would actually just record that, and then they transcribed it for me. And so that's what those 200 pages were. And then there was a CD with all of this five million words of other stuff, which I would spend my time reading, but which would have taken me years and years and years to read through all the way. And so fortunately I had Maria and Alan working on that. It was real interesting because a lot of this is stuff like 'Chronology of events for Book 5', which there had been a lot of things like that, and then there'll be hidden little tidbits in there.
But anyway, I was building the outline by rereading the series, taking the 200 pages—because we knew those were the scenes that he wanted in the book—and out of those two things I build the outline for the 800,000 word novel that I was planning. (laughter) So I used that. And I got very—I got time to come to grips with what was going to happen in a lot of the books. I had years to come to grips with it. It doesn't mean it wasn't an emotional time when I wrote it. We don't talk a lot—intentionally—we don't talk a lot about what was Robert Jordan and what was me. We don't talk a lot about where he decided characters needed to go, and where I decided characters needed to go, and where Harriet decided on occasion. But there were some long phone calls, where I would call and say, "This needs to happen. This is going to be really painful, but this is what the book needs." And we would talk it over and decide how to work it in and where it would go and how it would come about. Some of those conversations were tear-jerkers, but the Last Battle doesn't happen without some tear-jerking moments.
But beyond that, of course, the idea that it was all coming to an end, right? That this was years and years and years of effort, and years and years and years of reading, coming to an end. And that was emotional in and of itself. So, I've now had six or seven months. It finished for me July/August-ish when I handed off the document to Maria, and she took over the copy edit, and the continuity—you know, tweaking little continuity things. From there on, I couldn't change anything—I could write to her and have her change things. That's when the book was done, to me. And I've had all that time to get used that idea, also, of the book being done. And so, yes it was emotional, but I had so much more time to deal with it than you did.
Here's a tidbit from yesterday's signing:
Brandon revealed the gist of the two lines written for the outrigger novels. He says they will be released eventually, but the gists are: The first is about Mat waking up in a gutter somewhere, likely in Seanchan. The second is about Perrin heading out and thinking about how he may be forced to kill a friend.
Vora's sa'angreal—was it always in the notes that it didn't have the buffer against over-drawing?
Yes, that was always its setup according to the notes, though Brandon gets credit for naming the thing.
Ta'veren Telepathy in Technicolor (TM): what was the point?
Not totally sure; RJ's notes just said "This keeps happening up to the very end." Narratively, to keep attention focused on the Superboys, and to connect timelines.
Do Robert Jordan's notes state who killed Asmodean?
Brandon states that at the top of a large stack of Robert Jordan's notes that he received, there was a print-out of a fan's theory about the killer of Asmodean. Stuck to it was a post-it note from Jordan that read, "this is right."
Harriet commented about the importance of glossaries.
Who was the most challenging WoT character to write?
Mat was the most challenging, the second most was Aviendha. He explains that it is hard to write about someone so different than yourself and the Aiel culture seemed the most unique in the series. Of Rand's three women, Aviendha is Brandon's favorite. He recalls that after writing his first Aviendha scene, Harriet read it and then told him that it was a "picture perfect Elayne." Brandon went on to discuss how he has to write his way into his characters. Vin, in Mistborn, was originally a boy. Lots of his early work on The Gathering Storm was scrapped by Harriet because Brandon wasn't "there yet" with the characters.
He then goes on to discuss the volume of notes left by Robert Jordan. There are about 200 pages for A Memory of Light and then there is roughly 32,000 pages of other notes for the series, three times as large as the entire series put together. Brandon tells of how he tried to open it once and it crashed his computer because the file was so large. He also wants to commend the enormous efforts of Alan and Maria for their help in managing all of the details of the series.
Most of the questions during the Q&A centered on the writing process in one way or another, either of these last three Wheel of Time books or of his other works. I had never before had a grasp on the sheer size of what Mr. Jordan had thought about and committed to (digital) paper about this series, all the details that will probably never see the light of day, until Brandon commented that his attempt to put Jordan's massive document onto his own computer resulted in it crashing after 32,000 pages. If we ever need a metric to relate how real the world Jordan created was, that is as good as it gets.
Brandon also shared the funny and idiosyncratic way Mr. Jordan would get his inspiration for names; it wasn't all just Norse and Hindu myth all the time, but apparently also everyday objects—streets in his home town (Ogier Street!), his washing machine, and random strolls through the phone book. If you've lived in Charleston in the past 23 years, who knows, you may have made an appearance as an Andoran Noble or the Old Tongue name for an Aiel warrior society!
BWS then went into the story of his response to RJ's passing, describing what he wrote about RJ on his blog and what RJ meant to BWS (despite not knowing the man personally).
HM continued from her perspective. She informed the audience about how she came to read BWS' eulogy of RJ. It was the way he wrote and what he wrote that led her to initially believe that BWS would be the ideal type of person and writer to finish WoT. She also told the story about how she attempted to first contact BWS and wound up calling the other Brandon Sanderson in Provo, Utah.
BWS next told the audience about the time he first read RJ's notes. BWS informed us that there were about 200 pages of notes on the last book. Roughly 100 pages of these notes comprised dictations of scenes/paragraphs. The other 100 pages were from Q&As among RJ, Alan and Maria.
Which WoT character did BWS take the most liberties with?
Androl. BWS told the story of how he asked HM if there was a character for which the notes did not have a role for and if BWS could make his. HM was receptive to the idea. One of them (I cannot remember who) mentioned that RJ had in his notes material on leatherworking. HM had asked BWS if he could incorporate this into the books. BWS felt it would be perfect for Androl.
Sanderson almost didn't take on the role. Not for lack of interest; rather, because he was too much of a fan.
"That was actually a consideration in this for me," he says. "I would not be able to read a Wheel of Time book when everyone else got to.
"I balanced it with the knowledge that I got to go and read the ending he wrote. Because he did write the last chapter of the series himself before he passed away.
"I got to read that basically before anyone else except for his wife and his assistants. Getting to read it a few years early was a pretty big advantage."