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."
Logged In (0):
Newest Members:johnroserking, petermorris, johnadanbvv, AndrewHB, jofwu, Salemcat1, Dhakatimesnews, amazingz, Sasooner, Hasib123,
About skill comparisons between main character swordsmen:
"Read the book." About the forms used: I was curious, so I asked if he had studied the sword fighting arts or just researched. It's research, and the forms come from Japanese sword fighting and some European fencing, before the advent of well-designed and well-made guns made swords obsolete. He mentioned one book in particular, but I can't remember the title... :(
Lan and Rand's swords are loosely based on the katana, and another style of sword I had never heard of before (sooba? something like that anyway. SilverWarder might know) and that others were based on medieval European styles. He said that blademasters don't follow one particular historical style of fighting, but that different blademasters have different styles depending on their culture of origin.
At this point he went off on a little tangent about Miyamoto Musashi, a reknowned Japanese swordsman that developed a two-sword style of fighting that was revolutionary at the time. He related that Musashi developed his fighting style after fighting in the Philippines against fighters (Dutch? Portuguese? I didn't write their nationality down, but somebody here might know) that were using swords and dirks in a two-handed fighting style. In any case, I think his point was to demonstrate how fighting styles, like other knowledge, disseminates from culture to culture, but is changed and adapted into something unique in each locale.
Afterwards, was our big sword form demonstration. But before we talk about it, I want to clear up a misconception. As those of you who attended know, we had to perform this in the Kennesaw room where the layout and ceiling height did not allow us to perform the full demonstration as rehearsed. Instead we had to put on a shortened version of the program. Many people mistaken believe that this is the result of "Dragon*Con screwing us over". This is far from the case. Dragon*Con this year had several issues regarding scheduling, the biggest was the sudden cancellation of Joss Whedon after months of rumors that he wasn't even invited to the convention. Joss WAS invited and confirmed by Universal.
However, when the rumors of his cancellation began to appear, the Programming Directors created two versions of the schedule. One that had Joss's appearances on it and one that did not. When we made the request for a larger room for this event, our request was put on one version of the schedule, but not on the other. The mistake wasn't realized until we were already at the convention. The room that I had been told was available for us was also booked to another group doing a light saber fight demo. When the mistake was realized, the senior Director we were working with offered to attempt to find us space elsewhere. We volunteered to take the sure thing and reworked the demo to make it fit into Kennesaw. The senior Directors at Dragon*Con have always been extremely supportive of the WoT track and sensitive to our needs. In five years, this is the first mix up like this we’ve experienced and they made every attempt to fix it onsite, before we asked them to stop.
So now that you know far more about organized nerdery than you ever wanted to know, what happened at the sword form demo? Well, instead of having a series of staged fights scripted from the descriptions in the books, my husband simply performed some of the moves based on a fan interpretation that's been passed around the internet for years. He took requests from the audience, as well as performing a series that he had practiced. Because of the truncated program, we were able to run it twice, accommodating all the people who had lined up to see it. We also had a good discussion going of the inspirations of the forms and how they might change depending on the culture of the swordsman.
After the opening ceremony, I worked three hours at registration, taking a bullet for the Con and missing the Harriet and Wilson panel and the "Big White Book—Worlds beyond the Westlands" panel. I did get to go to the sword forms workshop, though, which was fun. Jimmy from Age of Legends as done very well at recreating the sword forms, and supposedly Robert Jordan had said he did them right.
I went to dinner at Chick-Fil-A with a whole bunch of con-goers, where we confused many people with discussion of Asmodeon, TAR, Taim, and other fantasy series. We then went back, and I became one of the dealers for the Seanchan (Texas) Hold Em tournament. Proceeds went to the Mayo clinic (I believe) and the prize was a signed, limited edition, leather bound, mint copy of Knife of Dreams.
Now, the funny thing here is: I've never dealt or played or even watched Texas Hold Em. I volunteered to be a dealer just to help out and because I was gai'shain to the Con. Frickin' got touched while I was holding a butterknife, and I had to lessen my toh. Anyway, so I get a crash course in how to deal and start the tourney, and somehow, I ended up dealing the last table. Was great fun all told, though, and congrats to Matt from Theoryland (the same one that refused to be Mat) on winning.
After that, I had drinks with some other random con-goers and crashed around one AM.
There was once, well, OK. Since his death we've shared his collection with some of the fans, because the collection of blades was enormous. And as we were considering doing this, my daughter Marisa, who is in her thirties now and whom I didn't know knew anything about blades at all, said, "Certainly you're not getting rid of the claymore!" And I said, "You know what a claymore is?"
So, think back to the movie Braveheart. We had gone down, the whole family was gathering for a fishing trip with the girls. Big deal, we are taking the whole family out, and the weather got in the way. Braveheart had just come out at the store, and we sat at home and watched it, the whole clan of us. She was in her mid-teens at the time, and right after the movie, he takes her out to the armory, which is the anteroom to this writing office, and shows her how to use the claymore, and does the sword-forms with her. And there's this massive, five-and-a-half foot long double handed broadsword in my daughter's hands, and he teaches her how to use it. And when I hear this, I said, "Bubba, you did what with my little girl? You taught her how to use the damn claymore!"
There were times that he would discuss sword-forms—and this is where you asked if I discussed the books with him—and both of us had a military background. He would get the blades and things, so he could touch and feel; it was part of his research. Look at a katana, there is a strong resemblance to some of the swords in the story. The influence is there. Some of the smaller swords have a resemblance to kukris or krises, of which he had numerous. But, as much as he would read about how to use them, he would then practice the forms. He would dance those forms, and there were times that I'd be with him, and he would say, "Do you think it would go this way or this way?" We are talking about a rather hulking guy in a very small confine, waving a blade very near my face. So, I was thinking, "Yeah, Bubba, but back off a little. That looks good, but don't trip. It would be hard to explain to the insurance company."
Not sure why there's still confusion. It's Nynaeve and Moiraine on the back cover. The yellow and blue dresses should make that apparent. Nynaeve's hair is obviously shorter than it used to be.
I spoke to Michael about the cover as he was finishing it. Since he didn't have the opportunity to read all fourteen books for the assignment, I was one of the people he leaned on to fact check his work.
Michael mentioned there are details the readers (like me) wouldn't be privy to yet. For example, Nynaeve takes the bulk of her jewelry off before this scene.
Callandor is a sword that isn't a sword, right? He's not holding it for defense. It's a source of power as well as his source of light (there's a clue about that in the lighting on his face). He's shielding his eyes as he stares in to the pit. Apparently, the deeper he goes into Shayol Ghul, the brighter it shines.
A little background that some might not know... Michael has studied martial arts, including Filipino Kali and Arnis. The forearm slash position actually has some utility in fights with bladed weapons.
Compositionally, the line of the sword is another element that draws you into the intensity of Rand's stare. Further, the opening of the cave is the shape of an eye; the eclipse suggests an iris. It's as if the gaze of the Dark One is falling on Rand. We see his strength and determination in response. How many illustrators can convey that kind of depth in a scene?
Say what you will, but I think Michael brought a lot to the plate on what was a very difficult cover assignment. He put his stamp on Rand while producing a cover that fits well with the first thirteen that DKS painted.
Thanks for confirming that. However, Nynaeve's hair is still the wrong color and, while it's shorter after the Aes Sedai testing in Towers of Midnight, it should still be in a shoulder-length braid. She never gave up her signature braid. That's why many people don't think it looks like Nynaeve—the braid is the main thing that would identify her as Nynaeve to the readers.
The loose light hair makes the woman on the cover look more like Alivia, who many fans believe is the woman in yellow. So I'm still of the opinion that Whelan did not do a good job with Nynaeve if longtime fans don't even recognize her. I think it's a beautiful cover, but as a reader, the main thing I care about is seeing the characters—who we have been reading about for twenty years—done right, not so much whether the cave looks realistic or happens to symbolize the Dark One spying on Rand. So it's disappointing that Nynaeve ended up virtually unrecognizable. She doesn't even wear yellow dresses in the books, despite being Yellow Ajah (she makes a point of wearing green or blue since that's what Lan likes), so that's not something that makes the woman's identity apparent either.
If you don't mind me asking (not trying to be rude here, it just strikes me as a bit strange), why did Whelan rely on fans to check his work instead of Team Jordan? I'm assuming you work for Tor, but you refer to yourself as a reader who hasn't read the book. To what extent were Brandon Sanderson and Team Jordan involved with the creative process behind this cover?
I was just one of the people helping with the details. Obviously Michael had Irene Gallo's art direction and was in contact with editors including Harriet.
Michael's wife Audrey usually serves as his sounding board, but she hadn't read the books. (For the record, I'm not affiliated with TOR. I've worked with Michael since the mid 90s, primarily on his website.) I'm a WoT fan and that's the kind of feedback Michael was looking for... someone he knew who had read the previous thirteen books.
Michael and I did discuss Nynaeve's dress color. I mentioned that she catered to Lan's color preference of green and blue. The yellow of her Ajah usually came in slashes of color, accents if I recall correctly.
Like I said, I haven't read the manuscript for A Memory of Light and Michael couldn't talk about it. But I distinctly recall Nynaeve taking pride in being a true Aes Sedai finally. Going into the Last Battle, I don't think it's a stretch that she would choose yellow. I suppose we'll have to RAFO on that.
In the background information I provided, I described Nynaeve's hair color as darker brown and referenced previous covers (among them the Melanie Delon's cover for A Crown of Swords that drew criticism for being too red).
I'd have to ask him why he chose lighter highlights. Just my speculation here, but Callandor is a light source. There's also illumination from the eclipse filtering in from the mouth of the cave to consider.
Michael got the length of Nynaeve's hair right, and this isn't simply opinion. Hopefully Brandon or Harriet will confirm at some point that her shoulder length hair was too short to braid.
Interestingly, Michael and I spoke about the challenge of pulling character descriptions from the text. If you're familiar with his illustration, he's known as a stickler for details. But it isn't always easy to translate text literally, especially when Jordan and Sanderson contradict in their description.
In correspondence, Michael wrote,
"Major characters are described as diminutive in size, yet 'commanding' in presence. Faces are youthful, yet ageless. Or young but having eyes full of wisdom of the ages. Rand is tall and manly, yet has an almost "feminine" beauty in his eyes or mouth. It's a bit confusing how one is supposed to render such conflicting elements."
Honestly, I don't mind the nitpicking. Criticism comes with the territory. My point in responding is to state that Michael was mindful of details here. There's evidence of it in the painting. I can tell you that he had Moiraine's kesiera and Nynaeve's ki'sain accounted for before I even spoke to him.
On a personal note, I had the privilege of meeting Robert Jordan before a signing on the Knife of Dreams tour. One of the things we talked about was the cover art for the series. I think Mr. Jordan would be pleased with this one. Obviously Harriet was when she said, "that is the Rand I have waited to see for twenty years."
Firstly, thank you very much for the thorough answer. It answered many of my questions, and it was also interesting to hear more about the creative process behind the cover.
[Nynaeve's hair] got singed off "a handspan below her shoulders" (Towers of Midnight ch 20), and she wore a shoulder-length braid in every scene she was in after the Aes Sedai testing. That's why it seemed odd for her signature braid to be missing on the cover. I don't really care about the dress or even much about the hair color, but Nynaeve isn't Nynaeve without her braid—it's part of who she is. It's like Mat showing up without his hat and ashandarei. And the ki'sain is too small to be visible, so it doesn't do anything to make the woman on the cover look more like Nynaeve.
I also wish Nynaeve and Moiraine hadn't been delegated to the background/back cover—since they're going to be linked with him, they deserve to stand at his side. But that's not an error, just something I wish were different.
However, while the cover isn't what I hoped for, I understand and deeply appreciate that you and Whelan both worked incredibly hard on it, and Whelan remains one of my favorite illustrators. I think he did a wonderful job with Rand.
I appreciate the sentiment but Michael did the actual work. He pushed his calendar aside this spring to make the cover happen. I was just support. But I will admit it took a lot of restraint on my part not to inundate him with questions that I knew he couldn't answer, so there is that.
As readers, we all have so much invested in this series that I completely understand what you're saying. I love Brandon's work, but I felt Towers of Midnight was a bit of a letdown, especially the resolution with Moiraine.
Moiraine has always been a favorite of mine. I would have liked to see her on the front cover as well. Thankfully Dan Dos Santos gave us that in his brilliant cover for The Fires of Heaven.
I think MRJackson & Mr. Whelan made a very good point, in that we have not yet read this book. By the time this scene happens, we may see several other events that make sense of the seeming discrepancies. Specifically, there are only two scenes after Nynaeve's testing which mention her braid, and in both cases it is specifically noted that it is too short and she finds it quite annoying. Quite possibly she'll meet up with Lan and find out that he likes it loose, or she'll simply decide that it's too irritating to fuss with a too-short braid, and we'll see her with loose hair in several scenes before this.
Someone was bothered earlier by the missing jewelry—but now we know that she specifically and deliberately removed the jewelry before this scene, probably so that someone else could use them. (That's what happened during the Cleansing; why not here as well?) Seems to me that we should make the assumption that the same kind of thing might happen with The Braid, instead of insisting that she should look like she did in the previous book, and claiming any discrepancies as mistakes. Such claims are not only rude, they are unfounded. Once the book is out and we've read the whole thing, we might have grounds for nitpicking; until then, not so much.
MRJackson—Thank you for your contributions, both to this thread and to Mr. Whelan.
Glad to be of help. Maybe someday we'll find closure in the great braid debate...
Seriously though, Michael painted Nynaeve's hair at that length (without a braid) for a reason. I wasn't trying to sidestep debate. I was expressing certainty. Michael was aware that the braid was an identifying feature of her character. The painting turned out the way it did through a long process that involved editorial input. I'll leave it at that.
I look at it this way (and this is my opinion)... Nynaeve has grown enormously through the books. She was always uniquely powerful, but it took time for her to grow into that power. More so, it took a dozen books to accept herself and decide who she wanted to be.
Nynaeve worked through enormous difficulty to channel reliably. Remember how she used to tug on that braid? It really was a symbol of who she used to be. Kind of fitting that the symbol is gone.
Old habits die hard, of course, but she isn't that girl tugging on her braid any more. She's a woman who fought to gain acceptance as an Aes Sedai, and she's going to stand at Rand side to face the Dark One. It's impressive how far she's come as a character.
The Fires of Heaven ebook cover was definitely one of the best, though there were a few things the artist got wrong (Moiraine does not have blue eyes). The New Spring cover was great too, especially Lan. It's mostly Nynaeve who has suffered bad luck with the ebook covers. There's A Crown of Swords where she got red hair and Lan looked like an underwater zombie, Winter's Heart where she didn't appear at all despite being linked with Rand for the Cleansing, The Path of Daggers where she got a Saldaean nose and Elayne looked suspiciously like Jean Grey...
I think much of my disappointment with the A Memory of Light cover stems from the fact that there's already an earlier cover (Winter's Heart) where Rand claimed the stage and his female linking partner was left out. "Hero poses manfully brandishing some kind of phallic object" is a pretty tired concept, especially on WoT covers. Rand does the same on Sweet's The Dragon Reborn and The Path of Daggers, the ebook covers for The Dragon Reborn, Winter's Heart, Knife of Dreams... Winter's Heart is probably the worst offender, if you look at the placement of the Choedan Kal. ;)
Sweet's A Memory of Light cover was a welcome break from that—I'm not usually a fan of Sweet's covers, but I liked that he gave Elayne, Min, and Aviendha a prominent role and added some emotion to the cover. So I really would have liked to see something different on the final cover, like Rand having the two women from the Callandor circle at his side. Here, Nynaeve and Moiraine are present, but only in the background, and not at all on the ebook cover.
The only female lead who held the cover spotlight on par with the men was Moiraine, and that is a shame.
There was definitely opportunity to feature Nynaeve linked with Rand on Winter's Heart. Despite the hair, I liked Nynaeve on the cover of A Crown of Swords. Lan not so much. The Path of Daggers was another miss, mostly because the colors were a distraction. I thought I was looking at an X-Men cover. Even if that was intentional, it didn't work for me.
I can only assume Rand was intended to stand at center stage alone on the last cover, but I think what you suggest would have been great too. Moiraine and Nynaeve definitely earned their place at Rand's side on the front.
That was a beautiful description of why Nynaeve is one of the most compelling characters in the series. She and Moiraine kept me invested during some dark years of almost giving up on WOT. I always hoped they would be the other Callandor channelers, as I could not imagine Rand putting himself in such a vulnerable position with anyone else. Aviendha, Min and Elayne included, though I do love Aviendha! So thank you for shedding light on why some things are portrayed as they are on this excellent new cover. Just don't think that it will put a dent in the debate. ;)
Thanks. I feel much the same way about those characters, and I'm sure the debate will keep going on well after the publication of A Memory of Light.
Hi Brandon, so a friend and I who share a passion for sword fighting have been trying to find the real world correlates for the stances that Shardbearers use. So far we've made connections between Windstance and Haidong Gumdo, and Smokestance and the late Medieval/early Renaissance fencing. I was wondering if you could give us more information or at least hints on the other real world correlates?
I developed these with Ben McSweeny's help, and we plan to include representations of all the stances eventually. However, a few are NOT based on real-world equivalents, because of the size of Shardblades. Look at how various very-large weapons like zweihanders or Zanbatōs were used.