Search the most comprehensive database of interviews and book signings from Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan.
2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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Following military service, Jordan enrolled at The Citadel, earning a degree in physics in 1974. For a time, he toiled as a nuclear engineer for the Navy. He became a writer largely out of boredom with the works of authors he read during an extended hospital stay, recuperating from a severe knee injury.
His first book, Warriors of the Altaii, was fantasy. So was his dream of a publisher. A book contract signed by Jordan was rescinded, reputedly due to "excessive demands." Despite the setback, Jordan determined he would no longer work for anyone else, that he would henceforth write full time.
In a reversal of the path taken earlier by John Jakes, Jordan went from "generational sagas" to the fantastic. However, his first major commercial success came in 1980 with the historical novel The Fallon Blood. Eleven years later, Jordan has published works representative of many fields, including dance and theater criticism.
Thank you very much for your letter. Receiving it was like getting a great pat on the back.
I have recently become aware of Internet, and have been a little dazed by the depth of interest Internet users display in my books. It's very flattering. However, I must correct the comment about Chapel Hill: I have never attended Chapel Hill in any way and I was not a geography major (sorry) .
Praise from a geographer for my world-building is praise indeed! Thanks for your kind words.
Jordan looks pretty much like the sketch, except add glasses. He was sitting in a nice comfortable chair calmly answering everyone's questions. Erica did rile him a little with one though. :-) He had a large ring on his right hand with some sort of reddish stone. Is this his Citadel ring? I don't know what one looks like, and didn't think to look when he actually signed my book.
Now to the questions people asked and the answers. I hovered pretty close to the signing table to get as much in as I could...
Actually, all that really helped me with is that I know what it's like to have somebody trying to kill you. I know what it's like to have a lot of people trying to kill you. And I also know what's it like to kill somebody. These things come through, so I've been told by people who are veterans of whether Vietnam, or of Korea, or combat anywhere—Desert Storm; I had a lot of fan letters from guys who were there.
As far as the Machiavellian part, as I said I grew up in a family of Byzantine complexity, in a city where there has always been a great deal of Byzantine plotting. The court of Byzantium never had anything on Charleston for either plotting or blood feuds. It came as mother's milk to me.
The South Carolina native dropped out of Clemson University after one year. ("I didn't know how to study.") He served two tours in Vietnam. Afterward, he attended The Citadel, becoming a nuclear engineer. A fall from a sub at the Charleston Naval Shipyard left him hospitalized for a month. His knee was rebuilt, and he suffered a near-fatal blood clot.
The avid reader decided it was time to try writing. "Life was too short," he says. He decided to quit his job after a bookstore manager pal told him that a famous bodice-ripper romance writer made $3 million on two books. Jordan decided to pump purple prose. But there was a problem. "I couldn't quiver," he says.
He met Harriet, a Manhattan editor who had moved home to Charleston. She told him he could write but to bag the bodice-rippers, suggesting instead he write historical novels. He published several under the name Reagan O'Neal.
As you might have noticed, things have been a tad dead here this week. That's because I've been out here in Charleston visiting Robert Jordan's house. Harriet, Alan, Maria, and I have been working on things for Book Twelve, and there was also a panel at The Citadel (where Mr. Jordan went to college) about Mr. Jordan and his effect on the fantasy genre. Harriet wanted me to be part of it, and I was very happy to do so. (David Drake also flew in to sit on the panel. I know it was video taped; I don't know if it will get posted anywhere. If it does, I'll try to get a link up here for you all.)
Regardless, it's been a busy few days. I flew out on Monday and have to be back on Thursday to teach my class. However, we've put our time to very good use, working out the outline for Book Twelve. (There were some holes in the plot and questions about characters we needed to work through.) Maria put it best with some of these holes: It's like we're putting together a jigsaw. We need to sift through Mr. Jordan's notes and figure out what he wanted to have happen, then figure out the best way to make it happen.
This, of course, is only for the sections that are more ambiguous. We're doing our best to make certain this book has as much of Mr. Jordan in it as possible.
Family, friends and fans of fantasy gathered at The Citadel on Tuesday 8 April 2008 to dedicate a permanent memorial to my brother/cousin, James Oliver Rigney, Jr. This was a celebration of Jim's life and his work. I would be lying were I to tell you I was looking forward to the event. We had assembled only a few weeks earlier at the Citadel to induct Jim into the South Carolina Author's Hall of Fame. That evening had propelled me back to the awful moments in September when we lost Jim. Both Harriet and I were in dread of the same happening yet again. It didn't. Rather the opposite.
Harriet had told us all, Onward, still she and I (and I'm sure the rest of the family) were mired in that part of grieving that causes us to hang on, denial. Only a day before, Harriet had rolled up her sleeves and dove headlong into the first chapter of A Memory of Light. She, Jim's loyal staff and Brandon were hard at work on the book. She called me to share that and her excitement was obvious. She sounded like a new woman. Harriet told me that she finally knew that Jim wasn't coming back. That doesn't mean that she doesn't still hurt. The hurt will never totally subside, but now it doesn't interfere with going "onward". Indeed it helps to maintain purpose and focus.
The memorial dedication was begun by a brief introduction of the event from Angie LeClercq, the Director of the Library. The introduction of the panel was made by our own Harriet. Sitting with her were Michael Livingston (Assistant Professor of Medieval Literature at The Citadel), Brandon Sanderson (Elantris, Mistborn) and Dave Drake (Hammer Slammers series, Lord of the Isles series and at least 60 other books).
Michael Livingston began by offering what he thought Jim had meant to literature. He compared the body of writers to that of waves on the ocean with peaks and troughs, with the last peak being JRR Tolkien. After him there was a long period in the trough of the wave, then came Jordan. Brandon then waded in with the impact Jordan had upon him as a 15 year old reading fantasy for the first time. He said that his parents were directing him towards Chemistry and Medical School. But Jordan's fantasy world hooked him so much that he too wanted to write. But every time he'd try something, he'd say to himself, "I can't. Jordan already did that." (For you writers of the future out there, Brandon wrote 12 books before getting one published. Never quit.)
This prompted questions about Jordan's impact on other writers, "were there people following his style?" I think you all know the answer to that question, there are many. Dave Drake added the observation that there are those who write about something and there are those who write about something that they know because they've lived it. He used his own experience from Vietnam to illustrate his point. He said that when you read Jordan you are privy to Jordan's experiences. The question was asked about who might be the next wave peak. Brandon offered a wonderful bit of insight. It won't be someone who imitates another's work. Brandon said that the one(s) who get it right will look not at what Jordan did, but how he did it. If they are successful in applying the method to their own experience, then we may see the next great writer.
The photo below shows (from right to left) Harriet, Michael, Brandon and Dave. The glass case directly behind them houses the memorabilia. There you will find copies of all of Jim's books, a Heron marked blade, his wide-brimmed black hat, his ram's horn cane, his military decorations as well as his unit insignia from the 68th Attach Helicopter Company, photos of Jim throughout his life and of course, his Citadel ring. Should you find yourself in the Two Rivers, Charleston, do make time to go by The Citadel to see this very moving display. I've also included a copy of the dedication program.
Jim's memorial case was put on permanent display in The Citadel library on the 8th of this month. It's a beautiful piece of work, and is probably worth more than some of the houses in the neighborhood. On display are a variety of artifacts representing different periods of Jim's life, and include photographs, articles of clothing and accessories, weapons, everything one would expect to give insight into the personality and experiences of this complex and fascinating individual.
Jim's Harriet convened a panel to discuss his life and literary works before an audience that filled one large section of the library. The panel was comprised of [I'm doing this in order of position, from the left, in the photo shown above] David Drake, famous author of fantasy and military science fiction, and friend/admirer of Jim and Harriet's for many years; Brandon Sanderson, talented young fantasy writer who was selected to finish the last volume in the Wheel of Time series; Michael Livingston, Assistant Professor of English at The Citadel, specialist in medieval studies and author in his own right, who is dedicated to ensuring that Robert Jordan's work be recognized by scholars to be among the masterpieces of world mythology; and, standing, Harriet. The discussion lasted about a hour, and included questions and comments from the audience. All in all, it was a stimulating evening, a fitting tribute to Jim, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. It also gave Brandon the opportunity to say for the first time, "Read and Find Out."
I'm not sure if you've all seen these or not, but I thought I'd post them. I've been hanging onto them for a while, waiting for a good time for it on the blog, and finally realized I just needed to get them up.
Back in April, The Citadel (where Mr. Jordan attended college) put up a permanent display about him and his writing in their library. It was a wonderful gesture, and the display is very nice. I flew out for the event, as did David Drake, and joined a very knowledgeable professor in a short panel on what Robert Jordan's writing had meant to the world and to us personally. Mr. Jordan's assistant sent me these photos of the event.
Harriet and myself right before the event. Note the stylish Asha'man dragon pins we're both wearing, sold by our friends at Badali.
Shots of the display case itself. There's a copy of a Heron marked sword in there, I believe. ;)
The panel, moderated by Harriet, with Dave Drake on the end, then me, then Michael, the local literature professor who knew a TON about the fantasy genre and Mr. Jordan's work.
Although I think you're right—we are getting into kind of details, but I do want to come back to the worldbuilding a little bit later in the conversation. But without giving too much away about the final book–there's a lot of fighting because, you know, it is the Last Battle, right?
And I know that your husband had a military background. Can you talk about that, and how it may have influenced his writing?
Yes, he served two tours in Vietnam, in the Army. He was a helicopter door gunner.
And a Citadel graduate, right?
Yes, he was. He went to The Citadel as a Veteran student, and loved that institution and the Army with–with all his heart, you might say. A friend of his said to me once, "Some people take off the uniform, and that's that. Other people, the uniform sinks right into their skin." And my dear husband was one of the latter.
And it really shows in the books. There's a lot of tactics, a lot of military strategy.
Yes, it does. The New York Times said at one point that the books reflect the last 30 years of American experience, including war, in the way that Tolkien's book reflected the last 30 years of the English experience when he was writing during World War II, that Robert Jordan's battle scenes are pretty wonderful.
That's an interesting parallel to Tolkien actually.
The New York Times' article on Tolkien and Jordan, published in 1996, can be read here.