Search the most comprehensive database of interviews and book signings from Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan.
2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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What's your writing day like?
Breakfast, answer the mail, answer phone calls, then sit down and start writing. I don't stop until lunch. About six or seven in the evening I quit and go in for dinner. If the book is really going hot, I might work later. It's eight or nine hours of writing, usually, and I do that seven days a week. If I decide to take a day and go fishing, since I know I don't do that very often, I don't mind doing that.
As to his daily writing habits, a long while ago he used to write for 25 or 30 hours straight, until absolutely exhausted (regardless of the time of day). Then he would sleep for 7 or 8 hours and return to the 25 or 30 hour cycle. However, he remarked that this schedule is not suitable for making his wife happy, so he switched to his current schedule, which goes something like: wake up, read the newspaper over breakfast, and begin writing at his computer (which he later told a person in line that it was a custom built, with a 17" flat screen monitor). He then writes for 8 to 10 hours, sometimes but not usually stopping for lunch. Then in the evening he would quit, help his wife prepare dinner, and start the whole process over again—7 days a week. His change to this 8 to 10 hour day was in part motivated by his decision "that keeping his wife was far more important" than keeping the "optimum" writing schedule.
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.
The payoffs of hard work
At a recent book-signing event, Jordan was gracious and accommodating with an estimated 300 fans who formed an orderly, expectant line that stretched around and outside of an Atlanta, Georgia, bookstore. Signing his chosen name and underscoring twice with a bold flourish on book after book, he thoughtfully considered questions and talked freely about his inspiration and writing process—lthings he has doubtless repeated at countless such appearances.
"I work eight hours a day, six and sometimes seven days a week," he said. "In the past six months, it was 12, 14 hours a day. I tried to take half a day off a month, but I generally did not."
For Jordan, such work is definitely paying off.
His reply was that he wasn't working on any other projects, and that he can only work on one project at a time. When he was working on the Guide and New Spring, he had to stop working on the novel during that time.
I missed the next question, but it was something about his computer use. He said that whenever he was at his computer, he was writing. Apart from checking his E-mail and updating his virus definitions files, about all he did on his computer was write.
Another question followed about the number of books. Same answer.
He said that he writes about 8 hours a day 6 days a week when he is not on tour. He said something about when he was fishing, unless he was fly-fishing or was on the boat really having to work at it, he felt like he should be home writing.
He then answered a question about living in Charleston; about how it was his favorite place to live out of the half dozen or so cities he felt that he would like to live in.
He said that for this book it took two months from the time he handed in the final manuscript until he went on tour.
Computers made it easier. Actually, first an electric typewriter made it easier. Robert Jordan was an engineer by training, and he really liked a clean typescript. He had begun by writing by hand on yellow legal pads, and when he switched to a typewriter he called his work "typing" rather than "writing." This lasted for a while. He said, at one point, "The only difference between my work and that of a typist is that I have to make up what I type." But of course he loved it.
And then computers entered our lives. I worked on a TRS-80, eventually adding an external drive; he cleverly bought an Apple III—a dog of a machine, which still contains some files we have never been able to access. Now that his papers and that machine are in the Addlestone Library of the College of Charleston, the archivists may be able to pry the information out.
Then there came the days of compatible laptops, so that he could finish a chapter in his machine and give me the disk to read in my machine. I recall one book we finished this way in the Murray Hill Hotel, an easy jump from Tor's offices in the Flatiron building. When the chapter was ready I would jump in a taxi with my laptop to turn it in to Tor—then gallop back to the hotel for more editing.
We were doing that because the book was late. Weren't they all? Tom Doherty performed miracles in getting the books produced in no time at all. But what Robert Jordan did under the pressure of deadlines—even if he missed them, the pressure was THERE—seems, as I look back, to be little short of miraculous, too.
I was amazed by the language, geography, people, and so on in the books, and I always wondered what Robert Jordan's office looked like. I thought it must be covered with maps and things relating to the books. What was it like to walk in there?
What you saw first when you walked in was a plastic human skeleton. And it wears a Viking helmet. And then you saw the books. There was a bookcase filled with books on religions. There was another bookcase of Westerns. There was a very big printer, and a roll-top desk. But what there weren't were maps. They were all in his head.
There were a lot of weapons, though.
There was a room full of edged weapons!