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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Q: Why has the Towers of Midnight progress bar been stuck at the same number for so long?
A: Been doing revisions. Plan to do a blog post soon.
I think I've mentioned the possibility, Dave, but never given anything firm. Well, I've been doing some asking, and it seems that Harriet and Tor are all right with this. So, I'm about 95% sure that this is going to happen with the The Gathering Storm. We'll probably do signed/personalized/numbered editions from Sam Weller's by mail AND will do a release party at BYU Bookstore again. The release party will probably be a midnight release, followed by me flying to Charleston to do another event in the evening of the release day.
I can't say how many books we'll release to Sam Weller's to sell this way. The numbered editions I do at these release parties aren't to replace the leatherbound collector's editions that Tor does. (I think they're doing one for The Gathering Storm, though I don't know.) My numbered editions have no cap—I number as many, generally, as there are people. (Note that Sam Weller's still has some Warbreaker copies that I'm going to go in and personalize for people tomorrow, so if you want one, give them a call.) Mostly, the numbers are just to say "Hey, I got the book from one of the release events. Isn't that cool?" But I could see so many being requested from Sam Weller's that we have to cap it to save my hand (and my sanity.)
Anyway, that's a long way to say yes, Dave. Keep an eye on the blog. We'll try to get the announcements for these events up earlier than we did for Warbreaker.
This afternoon I got word from Tor that the release date of The Gathering Storm has officially been moved up one week. The new on-sale date in the U.S. and Canada will be October 27, 2009, so mark your calendars. We don't yet know if other markets will be following suit; as more information comes in I'll keep you posted.
Jason Denzel at Dragonmount is one of the lucky few who has had the opportunity to read the finished book, and he posted his review of The Gathering Storm at the end of July. The review does include some very minor spoilers that he's marked off so you can skip them if you want the book to be completely fresh when you open it up in October. Also over at Dragonmount today Jason posted my comments on the situation with the outriggers and prequels. Short version: A Memory of Light is what Harriet and I are focused on right now.
My excellent webmaster and brother, Jordan, has added an Events page to the site. I know, people have been asking for a page like that for a while—well, it's finally here! Right now it's got all the dates and locations for my The Gathering Storm tour, as well as an appearance at the Book Academy writing conference later this month and a couple more signings in December (effectively though not technically part of the tour). This page will automatically update itself to remove events that are already past, so it's a good way to keep yourself updated on where I'm going to be.
At Dragon*Con this past weekend there were a slew of The Gathering Storm-related announcemnts from Tor Books and Tor.com, the first of which is that chapter one of the book is now available for free over at Tor.com (free registration required). The prologue to the book (which is much longer than the first chapter, at somewhere around 25,000 words) will be released on September 17 as an ebook, as were the prologues of other recent volumes. Tor also announced the availability of all the books in the Wheel of Time as ebooks, starting with The Eye of the World on October 27, and a subsequent volume following each month after that—and each ebook will feature new cover art. And finally Tor announced the organization of fan volunteer Storm Leaders for each city of my upcoming tour. For more information on all of these topics, please check out Dragonmount's writeup on the announcements.
On Friday I talked about this coming Saturday's release party for Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia. Be sure to read the entry if you missed it. Now, some of you are more interested in the release of The Gathering Storm that's coming up at the end of this month (though if you haven't read any Alcatraz, you're missing out). I recently found out about an alternative to the event I'll be doing at the BYU bookstore. If all you want is to get the book right away, standing in line for hours isn't your idea of fun, and you don't care about meeting me or getting my signature in the book (I understand, who cares about that Brandon Sanderson guy? You just want to know what happens to [insert character name here] ASAP!), the Provo Waldenbooks is also going to be open at midnight with plenty of copies on hand. They've put details up on Facebook. I'm going to be on the other side of town, of course, but the Provo Waldenbooks has hosted a couple of my release parties in the past, and it's a great place to buy books. (I won't make it to that store on this tour but am sure to stop by there sometime after I get back.) I imagine it will be a more relaxed way to get your hands on the book than the official release party—at which I still hope to see as many of you as possible. (By the way, the Dragonmount folks have put up Facebook calendar items for every stop of my tour, including the official release party. You can go add yourself to the events you're attending, if you like to do that sort of thing.) I haven't heard about any other special events or midnight openings at non-tour sites coinciding with the book's release, but if I do find out about any others I'll let you know.
I mentioned this on Twitter and Facebook earlier, but Tor.com is sponsoring a giveaway of The Eye of the World and Mistborn 1 over at SF Signal. If you already have both books (and I assume a large percentage of you do), they at least make great gifts. Check it out. The deadline is Monday the 12th at midnight.
Could you tell us, if you know, whether the Prologue of The Gathering Storm is going to be published early? It was for the last three books.
I really wish I could give you something firm on this. I know it was done previously, and I've asked for it to be done again—just because so many people want to see it. But there's a big time crunch on this book, and I don't know if Tor can spare the energy for this right now. We'll see. I'll ask again.
Brandon summarizes why the next book will be a bit more chaotic than The Gathering Storm, which may make Towers of Midnight a longer book. The Gathering Storm feels focused, whereas the Towers of Midnight may not feel that way.
Brandon discusses Mistborn questions.
Brandon mentioned that Peter knows the secret.
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.
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.
Yes! That's one of the reasons why we felt we needed to split the books. It was partially because the outline detailed so many things for us to do, and Robert Jordan had been saying for some time that it was going to be an enormous book. And part of the reason also was that I needed some legwork—time to set up all of these things that were going to happen. If you look at the end of Knife of Dreams, you've got characters scattered to the far reaches of the world, and we know—we've all known as fans for a while—that they're going to have to gather back together for the Last Battle. It's got to come, but they're still scattered all over the place. He started to draw them back together at the end of Knife of Dreams, but we really needed a staging book to bring some of these things back together, and to accomplish some of the goals he had set forth. That's really what The Gathering Storm is: it's focusing on several of the main characters who need to be in a certain place, both spiritually and physically. As characters they need to be in a certain place mentally, in who they are, and physically they need to arrive in certain destinations, and so I focus a lot on that.
In many ways, it's a more personal book, in that it's more focused on several of the big main characters.
It was a theme for the book. And, giving no spoilers, we have known for a while that Cadsuane and the Wise Ones have been saying that Rand needs to learn to laugh and cry again. That was their big concern. The idea of laughter as a theme was an interesting one to consider.
I mean, there's never one main theme for a book, particularly one this long. And so when you sit down to look at it, you want to have a lot of different threads, kind of like the threads in the Pattern, weaving together to make the tapestry of a story. One of those was the idea of laughter and how different people found enjoyment and amusement. We have the twisted laughter of the Forsaken and we have the genuine laughter of some of the characters, and we have one character, Rand, who can no longer laugh—he is incapable of doing it, even of laughing in wryness. And so I could approach it from those three different directions. We've got the terrible laughter and the full, joyful laughter, and poor Rand's silence in the middle. I thought that highlighting it in other people would only make his excruciating inability to feel all the more obvious, all the more of a smack in the face.
Brandon admitted there would be overlapping chronology between The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight and that Graendal's name will be mentioned a few times.
Brandon said the progress of book completion is sometimes edited down and then up depending on the subtraction or addition of submitted content.
About Gawyn's duel with Sleete, and the usage of real swords, she said she would have to look into that, since I had believed that normally practice swords are used. She said that perhaps sometimes they have to use real swords to keep their edge, so to speak, but will look into that.
With novice swordsmen, the practice sword is very good because they can swing away with abandon and be swung at and at worse get a bruise. But there comes a time when a person must practice with a real sword, and not just shadow fencing. How does a sword feel when it hits another sword? How quickly can you come back from that? Practice with the weapon you are going to use in real combat is necessary. This is especially true if you are with an army in the field; you’re not playing at keeping in shape, you’re trying to make sure that you are at your absolute top form to keep from being killed when you come up against someone else with a pointy blade. These Warders are very, very good; they trust themselves to fight with real swords without damaging each other.
So, often they practiced with practice swords, but sometimes they practiced with real swords. There is a type of practice with real swords in the books. We see it in New Spring: the Novel, where Bukama “took the other two a little distance away with talk of some game called “sevens.” A strange game it seemed to be, and more than dangerous in the failing daylight. Lan and Ryne sat cross-legged facing one another, their swords sheathed, then without warning drew, each blade flashing toward the other man’s throat, stopping just short of flesh. The older man pointed to Ryne, they sheathed swords, and then did it again. For as long as she watched, that was how it went. Perhaps Ryne had not been so over-confident as he seemed.”
It’s not the same as when Gawyn faced Sleete and Marlesh, but it is experienced swordsmen practicing with real swords.
Harriet said they should put Leigh's review on the back of the paperback edition, and Leigh double-dog dared her to have that done.
Harriet talked about a review that bashed The Gathering Storm for too much time emphasizing minor characters.
The change in Mat's personality that many of us noticed in The Gathering Storm was deliberate. He's reacting to being married, which was the last thing he thought would happen to him. RJ's notes said specifically that "Mat refuses to become husbandly", and he's doing that by trying to go back to how he was in The Dragon Reborn. This is part of where the silliness with the backstories comes from—he knows that he was less serious and more of a joker at the time, but can't really get back to how he was then.
When he was writing Talmanes, Maria mentioned that Talmanes doesn't usually mock Mat in the earlier books. Brandon said that he has always read Talmanes that way, and that's what he finds so funny about it—Mat doesn't realize he's being teased.
[note from Mato: had some trouble hearing this next question, take its answer as just a generic "RAFO, not a typo. There were other typos. < insert example >"]
Was Sulin really with Rand or—?
Ok, we’ll move on from there. Were male channelers across Randland able to feel Rand's use of the male Choedan Kal when he destroyed it atop Dragonmount?
I would certainly think they would have been able to, consistent with what has happened before.
But did they know that it was destroyed? Is that what they felt, or was it just the use of?
I do not believe the destruction of a sa’angreal would be the type of event that you would be able to notice. It is not consistent with what we have seen before.
There are about 50,000 words of secondary plots that Sanderson wants to include in Towers of Midnight. He's just not sure all of it will get into the book. If something gets cut, he'd like to get to his fans on his website.
This lead to quite a bit of discussion about Towers of Midnight. It will be a very different book from The Gathering Storm. The Gathering Storm was very intentionally focused. Brandon felt strongly that a 'hit' wasn't good enough, that The Gathering Storm needed to be a home run. (At the table, we all thought it was a home run.) Towers of Midnight will need to catch up many plot threads and will be much less focused. This will have its problems and it will be a big struggle to find the right balance—they aren't there yet in the writing process. Brandon mentioned a few plots as examples which strongly suggests they will be in Towers of Midnight—Loial, Lan, Fain, Taim, Logain, Elayne, if Mat does what fans think he will, etc.
Terry Brooks recently said he'll be doing more Shannara books and that he wishes he didn't use the title The Elfstones of Shannara already since his new arc is basically all about the Elfstones. Did your reticence to titling The Gathering Storm as such have anything to do with The Stormlight Archive? The Gathering Storm certainly seems like a perfect title for a book in the series.
Yeah. I didn’t choose The Gathering Storm. If you know the story, it all happened while I was asleep, and they said this was the title they were going to use. There were a couple of reasons. Number one, I knew I was releasing a book soon afterward that was in a series called The Stormlight Archive. Perhaps I pay a little too much attention to making sure that I don’t feel like I’m repeating myself. Kaladin in The Way of Kings was originally named Merin, and one reason I changed his name was because it sounded too much like Perrin. He had been Merin for eight years or so, but when I was just a Wheel of Time fan, it was okay to have a name that sounded a little like a Wheel of Time character’s. But now I may be a little hypersensitive to that.
Honestly, the greatest reason I might have preferred The Gathering Storm to have a different title is that I felt it was just a little bit generic, more so than recent titles in the series have been. Recent Wheel of Time titles have been beautiful; I love Crossroads of Twilight as a title, for example. But The Gathering Storm is a good title for a lot of other reasons, and it works very well for the first of that sequence. So I was satisfied with it even though it wasn’t the title I would have chosen.
The biggest difference is that in The Gathering Storm I took two tight narratives and built them both to an enormous crescendo. In Towers of Midnight I had to make each chapter have more of an impact. In Towers of Midnight there are these amazing scenes, chapter after chapter—BAM BAM BAM, this incredible scene you've been waiting for, this other incredible scene you've been waiting for, this majestic scene you've been waiting for—but at the same time we're showing the scope around the world. Now, the book has one of those tight narratives that builds to an enormous crescendo that I'm very pleased with. But a lot of the rest of the book is this sequence and that sequence and this sequence and that sequence, so it's a very different book. Book twelve felt more like books one, two, and three to me. Book thirteen feels like books four, five, and six. This expands the vision and goes back to places we've been before.
It was a wonderful process. I actually think that Towers of Midnight is a better Wheel of Time book than The Gathering Storm was. But it made for a much more difficult write, because tying all of these elements together was a big challenge. Tying two narratives together is challenging, but then suddenly when you have eight narratives and have to make sure that they thematically work together, and all of that, is that much more of a challenge.
We'll see what readers think. In these books I am particularly beholden to the Wheel of Time fans. I feel these books are for them. So I won't really know if I've been successful until they read it. But I feel very pleased with the book.
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.
I found "Veins of Gold" and "A Fount of Power" to be two of the most epic and intense climaxes in the series. In your opinion are the two climaxes of Towers of Midnight similarly epic?
The climaxes in the book are epic. One thing you have to remember in Towers of Midnight is that there is not as narrow a focus as there was in The Gathering Storm. So we’re dealing with more characters in many different places, which means that instead of as in the previous book where we could dedicate a good third of the pages directly to Rand—maybe even more—and build to one majestic, powerful climax, I’m not doing that as much in this book. Instead of twenty chapters from one character, you’ll get ten, and building to each climax will narratively depend on your love for the characters and your experience from the previous books. I think there are some wonderful climaxes that are a long time in coming. Are they on the level of The Gathering Storm? I’m really going to have to let people decide that for themselves.
Defining what makes something epic is so hard even for an epic fantasy writer. One definition of epic can be what we just talked about—a big, massive build across a huge number of chapters to something enormously earth-shattering. But you can also look at epic as a dozen different characters seen across a dozen different plots building toward one event—each of their pieces is smaller, yet builds to something larger. Those are both good definitions. Towers of Midnight is more like the latter definition. The Gathering Storm is more like the former definition.
I thought Rand’s arc in The Gathering Storm was brilliant—starting to get better then—bang! Cuendillar Rand, and finally "Veins of Gold". Was it difficult to write? Can you give us some insight into how you stayed in the mind of a madman?
It was difficult to write. I’ve said before that I view a lot of these characters as my high school friends, people I grew up with. Facilitating Rand going through these extremely painful and sometimes revelatory moments was not easy emotionally, and yet there’s an excitement and a power to writing emotional scenes where things are coming together. So I would say it’s actually more difficult to write a character like Gawyn, who’s frustrated and struggling with not knowing what he’s doing, than someone like Rand who always has a direction—even if that direction is straight down, as it was in places. He’s always moving. So because of that, Rand was in many ways easier to write than other characters were. Yet at the same time it was painful to write. That doesn’t really answer your question, but maybe it does give some insight, as you asked.
Brandon said there are two things going on—ta'veren and the Fisher King prophecy which says the Dragon is tied directly to the land. He says it seems to Rand that more bad stuff was happening in The Gathering Storm but that this could be either just Rand's perception or what is really going on. We should remember that ta'veren is supposed to be 50/50—an extra equal amount of good and bad going on. He would not tell us at this point whether there was really more bad stuff happening in The Gathering Storm or whether its Rand's perception as there was purposefully very few viewpoints from Rand himself in Towers of Midnight. Like the third book The Dragon Reborn, Towers of Midnight is meant to step away from Rand and view him from the viewpoints of others.
Someone also asked if Rand's ta'veren nature would affect people on the other side of an open gateway. Brandon said that the Pattern considers that Rand is where he is and not on the other side of the gateway, so he would not affect a place just by having a gateway open there and not actually being there.
Right, so on the trainride, there was talk of the prologues, Brandon said that in each of the prologues for the last three books there is one section that was fully written by RJ—in The Gathering Storm it was the farmer scene and in Towers of Midnight it was the Borderlanders' scene.
He said that the prologue will most probably be released ahead of time again (no big surprise there) and ideally he'd like for people to be able to buy the prologue and then get that much discount on the actual book, however that's difficult to manage with laws and regulations and such.
He said that the scene with the Borderlander farmers in The Gathering Storm prologue and the one with the Borderlander Watch Tower in the Towers of Midnight prologue were written by RJ and that they were some of the last complete scenes RJ wrote (he mentioned this in earlier interviews).
He refused to say who wrote "The Last That Could Be Done" from The Gathering Storm.
He wrote the scenes of Egwene's dinners with Elaida in The Gathering Storm. RJ's notes suggested just one dinner scene but BS decided that it would work better if it was split in two.
Oh boy, you’re fishing for Nakomi!
No, actually I'm not; somebody else submitted that question.
Okay. I would have to have the timeline in front of me.
Yeah. I think they asked because there are certain contradictions in the timeline and that’s why...
Oh yeah. There’s a mistake in Mat’s timeline.
And that was in The Gathering Storm, right?
No, there’s a mistake in Towers of Midnight. Mat sees sunshine when he shouldn't, or vice-versa. The reason for that being, Mat's timeline was the big one we were playing with, and we were moving him through the book to different places to decide where various things were appropriate, and where we settled on, both Alan and Bob Kluttz—who are really detailed timeline people—both stamped this timeline and said 'There are no flaws in this except there is an error in The Gathering Storm', which we have now changed. But we let a typo creep through—that one was more of a typo because we moved a scene from some place to some place else—and so there is a cloud typo. It is recorded on Twitter—I don’t know if you saw it—where someone pointed it out to me and I said 'We will get that changed.' Maria now is aware of it.
If it was recently then I didn’t get it, because I’m behind.
Okay. But Bob Kluttz does have an official timeline...he was one of the beta readers. The betas have all kind of come out now. I didn’t want people being jealous of them before the book came out, but...
Too late. I already knew about Linda. And I was jealous.
Yeah. I went to Bob because Bob is a master of timeline—one of them; there are many out there—and Bob’s job was to keep me honest on the timeline, and he did a really fantastic job, but we did miss one typo at least.
I believe Moridin was...okay, in The Gathering Storm, he was in his own dream. He at least believes he was in his own dream, and he is usually right on things like that. And in The Eye of the World, he...I believe it was their dreams that he was controlling. But...
That's difficult to do.
That's very difficult to do....so I could be wrong on that. It's easier to pull someone into your own dreams, but it's easier to influence multiple dreams from the outside. So...does that make sense?
So, since he's doing it to all three of them, that makes me believe he was actually controlling their dreams. I'm pretty sure on that one, Terez. [Cut discussion of the pronunciation of Terez.] I could be wrong...but my understanding of the mechanics is that since they're all dreaming the same thing, that it's external, much as a lot of the Forsaken have been not warding their dreams through the early parts of the books, and causing people to dream lots of weird things, and share dreams. Ishamael was doing that intentionally...doing something similar. Does that make sense?
Right, and it also has to do with his ability to find ta'veren.
In my reread I noticed in A Crown of Swords Chapter 10, "Unseen Eyes", that Egwene says it's possible for a Dreamer to pull someone out of their dreams into a dream of her own making in Tel'aran'rhiod; this is something the Wise Ones won't do, but Ishamael wouldn't have a problem with it; I had forgotten that detail for some reason, and the Moridin dream confused the issue. It can be assumed that Lanfear did the same thing; Moghedien has shown no sign of having the ability (or perhaps the desire) to reach others' dreams, but she can trap Dreamwalkers in their own dreams in Tel'aran'rhiod. Aran'gar can do it weakly, and then only if she is sleeping right next to the person. Brandon has a point about the fact that all three of them dreamed the same dream apparently at once, but in once instance, after Perrin found the wolves, it seemed to Rand and Mat that they fell asleep, had the dream, and immediately woke up, when Moiraine says they were asleep for four hours.
Oh, a medium amount. Most were mad at the start, but my post about why we split calmed many. Reading The Gathering Storm calmed many more.
Glad to hear they understood!
I think, reading The Gathering Storm, people could see just how much still has to be done in these books. So they understood I couldn't fit it all in one volume.
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.
I hope this isn't a RAFO, but how accurate is the WoT 12 product description on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites? It implies Rand and Egwene get the spotlight in book 12.
Well, it so happens that I wrote the majority of that product description myself, and so I'd say that it is rather accurate.
Jason's review implies some things about the focus of the book as well.
You'll notice that I'm not flat out answering the question you seemed to be getting at. (Is this book mostly about Rand and Egwene?) That's because I don't want to dig into this too deeply. If I begin talking about which characters have the focus in this volume, people will start trying to pry out of me if "such and such" character appears, and if so, how often. I want to spoil as little of this book as possible.
Therefore, I refer you to the two sources above (the product description and Jason's review) and will say that they are accurate in as much as what they say, but will note that neither talks about everything that is in the book. I have said before that almost all major viewpoint characters appear in The Gathering Storm (there is one absent) and that it focuses on several of the characters, while the second book focuses on others. But even the characters not being focused on have parts in each book. Some of the things you've been waiting a long time to see happen in this book. Others were reserved for the next volume.
Let's leave it at that for now.
I go into books trying to present characters who are real. That said, some things in the real world that have influenced me are these questions of, what are you willing to sacrifice in the way of freedom in order to have security? I think that's a big theme recently in the Wheel of Time that Robert Jordan was dealing with, and that The Gathering Storm deals with a lot.
I was most fascinated with Egwene's progress as a leader through the entire series. And the things I was allowed to do because of what Jordan had done in Knife of Dreams and the set up in previous books, and then what was in the notes, was really exciting to me because she was able to come to encapsulate what a leader really is, I think. There are some great scenes in Gathering Storm that I got to be part of, where, you know, we've had Aes Sedai acting kind of as bullies, some of them. And we've had various people through various factions acting as bullies. And there has been this sense in the Wheel of Time that people believe that might makes right. And yet it doesn't, and the books imply that it doesn't. And Egwene is the first chance we've really got to see of someone with no might making an even better right.
I really felt I needed to knock this book out of the park. I couldn't just get a base run, I needed to nail it. And to do that, I put some of the most dynamic powerful scenes that I had access to together into the book. The next book is going to be very different in feel and tone because while this book was very focused, the next book we are going to be able to get back to a lot of the characters we haven't heard from. And I won't mention specifically who's going to be in the book, but some that could be. I mean, we haven't heard from Loial in a while, we haven't heard from Padan Fain, we haven't heard from Lan, we haven't heard from the Black Tower. I mean, there's a lot of stuff going on. . . I mean, Pevara, and Logain. . . so much going on that I intentionally didn't do because I wanted this book to be very focused. Next book, we're going to get to all that.
What is your favorite book you've written?
Favorite is hard to pin down. I'm most proud of either The Gathering Storm or The Way of Kings, as they were among the hardest and most satisfying.
No, that is correct. Rand caused the bruises, so balefiring Semirhage would not make them go away. Balefire only removes paradoxes caused by the direct actions of the one who is balefired. And the bracelets remained after Rand balefired [Semirhage and Elza] because they weren't really part of Semirhage or Elza.
(comment regarding the thread on Dragonmount where some are arguing that by balefiring Graendal's palace, the Compulsion disappeared since there'd never had been a palace in the first place, and others are arguing that it doesn't work that way, objects don't have threads).
Everything has a thread, not just souls. Even a stone in a wall has a thread in the Pattern.
The relationship between artist and critic/fan is a curious one in this regard. On one hand, I do think feedback is important, particularly on a project like this (where, as I've stated, I feel that the project rightly belongs more to the fans than it does to me.) However, a writer must keep their artistic integrity. Allowing yourself to get pulled in too many directions by fan requests can be a disaster for an artist. Basically, you can't try to please everyone—if you do, you risk ending up with either a completely schizophrenic project, or one that is so bland it lacks emotional depth or power.
So, like I said, fine line. I looked at fan responses on The Gathering Storm very cautiously and carefully, trying to keep in the same mindset that I use when getting feedback from my critique group. Basically, that mindset is this: "I will do what I feel is best for the story, regardless of what other people think. Even if I'm the only one who feels that way. But if someone raises a complaint that either strikes a cord within me, or which gains a lot of support from others, I WILL look into it and try to approach it objectively."
That's a mouthful. Basically, what it means is keeping an open mind for ideas that will make the story a better version of what I want it to be. On The Gathering Storm, there were two basic areas I felt fans were right about that I could and should fix. The first had to do with some voice issues in Mat's narrative. (I've spoken of that elsewhere.) The second had to do with continuity errors. I am not nearly as good at dealing with those as Robert Jordan was—I know he made mistakes, but I felt I made more. So for this project, I enlisted the help of some very detail-oriented members of the fan community as beta readers in an attempt to keep myself honest and catch mistakes before they went to press.
There are things in this book, like in any book I've written, that I fully suspect will draw complaints. In some cases, I know exactly what they are—and I did them that way because I felt it was best for the story and the best way to remain true to Robert Jordan's vision. It's the ones that I DON'T expect, but which ring true, that I want to find and correct.
Two things: First, how to juggle a large number of plotlines and viewpoints. (Something I'd failed at in drafts of unpublished books during my earlier years as a writer.) I couldn't afford not to do this well.
Second, I believe I learned a lot about character viewpoint and narrative. (Most of this came from reading Mr. Jordan's books with a much more detailed eye than I'd done in recent years.)
It's been an interesting experience. So far as I know, I'm the only person in the world to have ever read through—beginning to end—the Wheel of Time, starting with Book One and continuing through until I reached the final scenes Robert Jordan wrote before he passed away. (Maria might have done it, but I don't think so—she pretty much has the books memorized by now, and seems to spot-read more than she reads straight through.)
This is an experience others will start having in the coming years, and perhaps they'll agree with me that it DOES change the series. First off, you gain a better appreciation for Robert Jordan's ability to foreshadow. Second, the slow parts don't seem so slow any longer, particularly as you see books seven through fourteen as being one large novel.
In The Gathering Storm, Egwene was mostly RJ, Rand mostly Brandon. In Towers of Midnight, Mat mostly RJ, Perrin mostly Brandon.
What you have to understand is Tomas was tired of this world. Without Verin, he didn’t really want to be around...
So Tomas is dead?
Yes. Tomas is dead. She could have released him, yes, but he didn’t want that.
*stares at me blankly for a long moment* What... um... what has been said on it before?
Just that it’s a sword sticking out of the earth. Cadsuane names it...
Oh right, umm. I don’t know. *he laughs* You can probably tell something about it from that.
That it’s not important.
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.
Brandon again spoke of Aviendha and the Aiel, due to the way they think, mentioning how he went through several drafts and back and forths with Harriet, whilst doing multiple re-reads of Aviendha’s POVs.
Then he spoke of Mat, saying that Mat is such a complicated character, though you might not think he is at first glance. He is an unreliable narrator, with vast differences between how he thinks and how he acts, and that Jim’s Mat POV’s are some of the best in the series. He then spoke of his own writing and that because of these elements it’s easy to miss things with Mat, and that that is why his early scenes in The Gathering Storm are not as good as his scenes in Towers of Midnight, where Brandon began to ‘get him’. Brandon finished by saying he’s best in A Memory of Light.
From dinner re: balefire philosophy:
Talked to Brandon at the Stormleader dinner last night. He had a few things to say on this topic:
1. The bruises on Min's neck were not an error. After consulting with Team Jordan, it was determined that indirect effects remain. Rand was the one who strangled Min, not Semirhage directly, so the bruises stayed.
2. Brandon knows of two ways to destroy cuendillar. But he would not confirm if the Domination Band that Rand was wearing was made from cuendillar. He said it was not relevant to what happened.
3. The bracelets did not disappear when Semirhage and Elza were balefired because they were not considered to be intrinsic to their person. It would be the same if someone was holding a book and was balefired, the book would drop to the floor.
(This is not verbatim.) Yes, I did, and I know there is a flow issue there. They were amongst the first chapters I wrote and at that stage I had not realized that most of Mat's humor is in how he reacts to his surroundings.
There was a bit more to this; I wish I could recall more, but a lot of cues I need are missing from these notes, although what I have has been brilliant so far. Many thanks to my faithful Gaidin.
Brandon drew a graph of A Memory of Light's structure and explained in some details how he ended up re structuring it as three books. Not much that isn't already known in there, book 12 will have two main story lines (we know it's Rand and Egwene, but as I said Brandon didn't say so explicitly at the Q&A) and teasers for three more (Mat—and seemingly Perrin and Elayne). By 'teasers', Brandon precised he means 3 or 4 chapters per story line, the rest of the chapters being divided between the two main story lines (by recent books, this could means Egwene/Rand have about 10-12 chapters each, or a few more). Some developments happen in the teasers but it's not huge stuff, more like set ups chapters for what happens in book 13.
Book 13 will have the opposite, with 3-4 chapters each for Egwene and Rand, "toward the end". Brandon kept those for book 13 to avoid spoiling in The Gathering Storm the climax of book 13, which will mark the reunion of all the main story lines at some location, and launch Tarmon Gai'don. So in book 13 we will have the residual Rand/Egwene chapters that specifically build up to the reunion.
Brandon explained the decision to split the books this way came about between Harriet and him, in part to avoid the "Crossroads of Twilight trap". Apparently, RJ went that way in Winter's Heart/Crossroads of Twilight mostly because he had been affected by all the grief he got for keeping Mat out of The Path of Daggers. He decided to try to put all the main characters in the next books, even if it meant all the story lines would advance more slowly if they were all told in parallel like this. He very much regretted this after Crossroads of Twilight, for which he got even more grief than for The Path of Daggers, and decided to return to his more organic/uneven approach for Knife of Dreams and A Memory of Light. The original plan for The Gathering Storm was to develop all the story lines in parallel again, but Brandon and Harriet had qualms about this and Brandon came up with an alternative to focus on two story lines in one and three in the other.
There is one of the 'POV clusters' Brandon had written that it mostly unused for The Gathering Storm and will go in book 13.
Brandon of course wouldn't tell who is the character not in The Gathering Storm at all, though he gave a few clues. Piecing all his bits of answers together, the character isn't Aviendha, Cadsuane or Nynaeve, nor Mat (the only character he confirmed is in the two first books, but we already knew this). He basically destroyed the speculation it could be Perrin by hesitating on the words 'major character' and then adding the bit that the vast majority of fans would actually place this character at the very bottom of the list of characters to be considered 'major'. The way he put Elayne over and over among the five really major ones during the Q&A suggests it's not her either after all. He also said while explaining his graph that there were chunks (his "teasers" for three story lines in The Gathering Storm and the core of the story for two—and his 'five' clusters he explicitly said were Rand, Egwene, Perrin, Mat and Elayne.
So perhaps we've read too much in his 'major POV character' comment (Jason's review may also allude to this, when he commented that one major character is missing but it's pretty much up to each reader to decide who is major and not in WOT). At some point, he said a major POV character in A Memory of Light will be missing in The Gathering Storm, which is not exactly the same as saying a major POV character from the earlier books isn't in The Gathering Storm—which is the way his previous comment was interpreted by many.
Lan isn't a major POV character in the earlier books, but now he's on his own he may very well become one in A Memory of Light.
In any case, I'm more and more thinking it's Lan (or possibly Moiraine), not Elayne or Perrin which I doubt many would place 'at the very bottom' of the list of characters to be considered major. Most people would place Elayne not near the bottom at all but among the top 7 or 8 most important characters. Above Moiraine and Lan, Thom, Loial and probably even Min and Aviendha.
"Yes they end up at the same time. I’ll have to give you a MAFO for an exact date for the second, but basically it is sometime in late June early July." In addition Tuon’s scene with Rand was about 3 or 4 weeks before her last scene in the book.
A relatively long discussion of timelines followed. Basically RJ would have the timeline within a story arc follow chronologically but “Jim was crafty” when it came to the overall timeline. Maria has a huge spreadsheet of a timeline but it is not publishable because it is very rough and unintelligible unless you’ve been working with it for a long time.
-first- Rumors: he said that rumors are just rumors. About Trolloc attacks, specifically, he said that "Trollocs have been attacking, or invading in various places for months" and that rumors abound in all sorts of forms about them.
With regard to the White Tower attack—I prompted this one a little, and he said that they are simply rumors which have coalesced from multiple rumors together, nothing related specifically to the real attack adding that "in the Wheel of Time rumors sometimes have a tendency to double back on themselves" turning into truth eventually.
As for the horse riding in Caemlyn, I asked him specifically about Rand seeing Mat and Thom on horses in Caemlyn, but Mat in Chapter 8 was not taking his horse into the city, and he responded by saying that Rand didn't see Mat in this specific scene and assured me that all that would work out in the rest of the book.
He did admit that there has been one "hitch" found in The Gathering Storm as per chronology that will be changed in upcoming editions. If I remember correctly he said Mat is roughly two weeks behind where he was meant to be and explained that Mat's position in time at the end of The Gathering Storm was supposed to be two weeks earlier than it was portrayed as being.
Well—this is something I'd like to understand better—and hear it verbatim. I'm not sure I understand what is being said by the reporter.
This means that something currently in The Gathering Storm needed to be retconned to get the timeline to work and will be changed in future editions of The Gathering Storm. Unfortunately, there wasn't time to get it changed in the paperback that's coming out this month. I'm guessing the change will affect only a sentence or two.
Retconning was a last resort that they really didn't want to have to take, but it was unavoidable.
Team Jordan has a very detailed chronology that looks in many respects similar to Steven Cooper's chronology, but Steven's is a bit off in a few areas. Certain beta readers helped verify it was nailed down.
And Terez: It doesn't have to do with Sulin. Actually, they decided Sulin needed to be retconned earlier. You can find out in the paperback of The Gathering Storm how that was worked out.
That's what you answered for Book 12. I'm asking about Book 13, which I've already read.
Everyone in line close your ears. The whole Tower of Ghenjei sequence. That was all written by Jim. Also, the surprise proposal at the end.
Sanderson said Rand realized that he did not need the Choedan Kal for the Last Battle. He also said that Rand was not at a point where he needed the Choedan Kal for anything he wanted to do.
He said the sentence in a way that leads me to believe post epiphany Rand is much stronger than pre epiphany Rand though that is my interpretation of his sentence.
On the subject of the Choedan Kal, he said that the True Power was not as strong as someone with the Choedan Kal. Just it felt as tempting and as addictive as the One Power through the Choedan Kal.
My progress bar is not updated because I'm lazy—I need to tell Peter to update that when I post. I'm 50% through—maybe more like 55% of the way through the final revision of the last book. So, the final revision, here's how the process goes for those who are curious: I turned in the book like January 1st. At that point, that was first draft. Usually, I don't do revisions from editorial revisions on the first draft. I actually go through it a second time and do a second draft, and that's what I turn in. If I can get the time, I turn in a third draft. This time I turned in a second draft, so I did first draft and I said, "Okay, wait two weeks and let me get ahead of you in the second draft," and I was just sending them chunks as I finished the second draft. There's not time on this book to do the whole thing straight through and then send it, and things, and so they then start sending back things, and I start the third draft immediately, and we keep doing that until we get to this one which is seventh draft, I think is where we are right now—somewhere in there—like I've been, some of them I would do two drafts while I was waiting for things back on theirs.
Anyway, and they just kept feeding me sixth draft sort of stuff that [had] been sitting on my computer, and they finally got the last of that to me last week which means that Maria and Alan and Harriet are all done, and it's all on me just to finish the last tweaks that they've requested in the book, and that's what this draft is, is the last tweaks. Things that they say, "Hey, we need this little thing fixed; we need to add this thing to this scene," or all that little stuff. Nothing major is happening in this one. I did add one new scene in this draft that I felt we needed but it's kind of a short one—it's only like five pages—um, but yeah, so that's where we are. My hope is, and goal is, to be able to turn it in next week some time. I dunno how viable that is. I'm probably way past 55% as I think about it, because I've been working each night. I was at 50% on like Wednesday, so I'm probably around the two-thirds mark, or something, right now, and then that will be it; it'll go to copy-edit and proofreads, all of which are handled by Team Jordan, of which I don't do anything unless they come up with a major continuity error or something like that. Somewhere in there, it will hopefully go to our lovely beta readers to make sure that I didn't put people in two places, so...that Sulin doesn't end up in two places at once. They missed that one though, so you can blame all of us on that one.
I was like, "Whoa, a Wheel of Time book, I'm gonna just read this; I can't talk to anybody about it."
Yeah. So, anyway, it'll go to copyedit and proofreads, and hopefully some beta reads for three months or so, and then it'll go to the printers, and that takes about...it's about a three month process, and they'll ship 'em here, and we ship 'em out to bookstores, and then that's when it comes out.
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.
When I wrote some of the climactic moments for the various books, because as you mentioned, it did get split into three. I didn't expand his outline; I just wrote it as-is, and the decision to split was the publisher's, but it was a good decision. There was a moment in writing that first one that I did where one of the characters has just a moment of complete clarity and transformation where I said "Wow, I think this is gonna work. I really think that people are gonna accept this. I think I hit it."
Yeah, that must have been a great moment, that break-through moment. Did you know you'd had it then, or was it looking back that you realized, that's the moment when you had the vibe?
Well, I felt I had it then, but I'm an artist, and you work with a lot of artists; you know that when the moment is done, when we're done writing, we take our hands off the keyboard, our immediate thoughts are of panic and, everyone's going to hate this, and my career is over, and we fight those emotions back and forth in our heads. When we're actually in the moment creating the art, everything comes together and we know, deep down, we know it's working. Later on, it all kind of falls apart, and so then we just wait for the book to come out, for the story to be seen, and wait and see what people say about it, and just hope that we were right.
That's fantastic, Brandon. You sound like one of your own heroes, you know, wrestling with the mighty forces. [laughter]
Yes, well it sometimes feels a little bit like that way, you know, the underdog who comes in with this monumental task to do, I felt like I'm carrying that ring toward Mordor several times.
So how long is the series going to be? RJ's answers from 95–06
Friend of mine posted this on Dragonmount and I got a kick out of it, a timeline of RJ's estimates on just how many books the series was going to be:
He still isn't sure how long WoT will go on for, saying probably seven books but adding that when The Eye of the World first came out he saw the series as four books.
"At present I am indeed hoping to complete the cycle in either seven or eight books. I am 90% confident that I can do it in seven, 95% confident that I can by eight. The thing is, as a famous manager of an American baseball team once said: 'It ain't over till it's over.'"
"It will last several more books, until I reach the last scene, which has been in my head since the very beginning."
"I do hope there will not be ten books all told. I'm planning for eight, at present, and hope very strongly that I can wrap it all up in that length."
He said he writes as the ideas come and he has no clue as to how long the series will be!
"I knew from the start that I was writing something that would be multiple books. I just never knew how many, exactly."
Not only did he decline to set the number of future WoT books, but he denied ever setting a number and says he never planned it to be only a trilogy. But he seemed to indicate he was planning 9-10 books total. When faced with the prospect of about twelve books, his wife threatened to divorce him and his editor began to make jokes about the Irish Mafia.
"Several. Some. A few. I'm not even speculating now on how many books I hope it will take, because every time I do mention a number I hope I can finish it in, it turns out to take longer. It will be at least eight, because I've signed the contracts for books seven and eight."
"I've stopped saying how many more books there will be."
"At one time, I did hope for eight; now I don't think so. I certainly hope (Please, God!) it doesn't go to ten books, but I have stopped saying anything except that I will write until I reach the last scene of the last book, which scene has been in my head from the beginning."
"There will be a few more books, some, not a lot, hopefully fewer than seven more."
"It will be at least ten books, yes. There will be some more books, not too many, and please God, not so many as I've already written. I am, in truth, writing as fast as I can. I want to maintain the pace of the story until I reach the final scene, which has been in my head since before I started writing The Eye of the World."
1997"There will be at least three more books. I'm not saying that there will be ONLY three. I'm saying that I can't finish in fewer than three."
"I believe—believe!—there will be three more books. I am trying to finish up as soon as possible, but I cannot see how to do it in fewer than three books. That isn't a guarantee, mind! In the beginning, I thought that there would be three or perhaps four books total, but it might go to five, or even six, though I really didn't believe it would take that long. It wasn't a matter of the story growing or expanding, but rather that I miscalculated—brother, did I!—how long it would take to get from the beginning to the end. I've known the last scene of the last book literally from the beginning. That was the first scene that occurred to me. Had I written it out 10 years ago, and then did so again today, the wording might be different, but not what happens. It has just taken me longer to get there than I thought."
"When I finished A Crown of Swords, I said it would take me at least three books more to finish. Now that I have completed The Path of Daggers, it looks like it will take me at least three more books to finish. Believe me, guys, I'm trying as hard as I can to get there as fast as I can."
"I don't have a set amount of books planned. I believe it will take at least three more books to reach the ending that I have known for more than 15 years."
"Remember, after A Crown of Swords I said at least three more books....the same thing I say now."
The usual "at least three more books" was mentioned several times in an increasingly loud voice.
"I am only asked that question by about 300 people a day. The answer is that there will be at least three more books. At least. As I said earlier, I know everything that I want to happen and I have known the last scene of the last book for fifteen years. I also know that I cannot get everything that I want to happen into less than three more books. So that's where we stand at the moment."
Firstly, RJ said three more books "at least" and that he'd try to do it in three if he could, but he couldn't promise it would be only three. And he said he thought it would take "at least five years".
"Sigh! At least three more. I know I've said that before, but it's still the case."
"It still sits at three more books to finish, but I've always said from the time I began using the three books that it would be AT LEAST three books—that I'd try to finish in at least three books, but I couldn't promise. I know that I couldn't possibly finish in fewer than three. If I can finish in three, I will. But that's what I'm hoping for, what I'm trying for. NOT a promise."
"There is no set number. It takes as much space as it takes."
The next book will be out very soon after he's finished writing it. He don't know how many more books there'll be. At least three. If he can finish it in three, he will.
There will be no more than five, but also no less than another three books to be expected to appear in The Wheel of Time series.
"There will be at least three more books. The next book will be in bookstores very shortly after I finish writing it, and Michael Jordan is my kid brother whom I taught to play basketball."
"After Crossroads of Twilight, there will be two more books, knock wood, God willing and the creek don't rise. I never intended The Wheel of Time to be this long. The story is progressing the way I planned, but from the beginning I believed I could tell it in many fewer words, many fewer volumes."
"I think twelve."—Harriet
When asked "how many more books?", which of course met great laughter, he responded that he had started the process intending to have only five or six. Now on book 10, he remarked that he would complete the series in two more books if at all possible. If not, then three.
Jordan showed up around 7, and gave a little speech. He said there will be at least two books, and that he will not write a word more than he has to."How many more books will there be? There will be at least two more books. I apologize for that. I cannot finish it in fewer books. I will try to finish it in two more. I have known the last scene of the last book since 1984. I know where I'm going. The problem is...[my tape is once again inaudible and this was one of the few parts of his speech I could not hear, sorry gang]. That's about it."
"I really hope—knock wood, spit over your shoulder, and sacrifice to the gods—that I can finish up in twelve books total. We shall see."
"No, at least two more books, I'm afraid....I've had some people say they'd like five or ten, but I generally throw something at them."
"I hope—please God, are you listening?—that there will be only two more books in the main sequence."
"I very much hope to finish in two more main sequence books. It's not an absolute promise, but I'm very much hoping for it and I think I can do it."
"I sincerely hope it will be possible to tie everything up in two books."
There is only one book left in the series but it will be a doozy. He will fight to prevent it from being "George R.R. Martined," or split for publication.
"I am committed it is going to be 12 books, even if it is fifteen hundred pages long and it requires you to bring a luggage cart to get it out of the store. Bring your knapsack, you may need it, because no matter what the case that is going to be it."
"One more—the twelfth book. That will be so even if that book has to be 2000 pages in hardcover, and require a luggage cart and shoulder strap to get it out of the store."
"I have said it before and will say it again. There will be one more book. Even if it has to be a 1500 page book. It will be the last book even if you have to use a luggage cart to move it."
"For Segovia, my intention is finish with twelve books, and that may mean that the last book will be VERY long, but I really can't say how long it will take me to write. My publisher is always trying to get me to commit to a time frame. I just do a little sand dance until he goes away. I carry a small bottle of sand with me in New York for exactly that purpose."
Book Twelve will end the main sequence if he has to personally go to New York and beat the publishers at Tor, even if it runs two thousand pages and they have to invent a new way to bind the books (shudder). There will be two more prequels a la New Spring, and there might—very big MIGHT—be another trilogy in the same universe.
First, "the next book will be out very shortly after I'm done writing it." Next, "the next book will be the last book, even if it's 2000 pages, and you need a luggage cart to carry it out of the bookstore."
"Can we all say it together? One more book. I don't care if it has to be 2000 pages and you have to wheel it out the door. One more book."
"After Knife of Dreams, there's going to be one more main-sequence Wheel of Time novel, working title A Memory of Light. It may be a 2,000-page hardcover that you'll need a luggage cart and a back brace to get out of the store. (I think I could get Tor to issue them with a shoulder strap embossed with the Tor logo, since I've already forced them to expand the edges of paperback technology to nearly a thousand pages!) Well, it probably won't be that long, but if I'm going to make it a coherent novel it's all got to be in one volume."
Ah, and what a marvelous 2,000 page book it would have been. I was really shooting for this. Turns out, however, that I don't have the influence that RJ did, and couldn't persuade the publisher that printing a 2,000+ page book was viable. You'll have to be satisfied with three 800 pagers instead.
I do kind of hope we'll be able to do a cut of the volume in ebook where I weave the three books back into one, which would fix some of the timeline confusion in Towers of Midnight, which was the big casualty of the split.
(I knew that, in all likelihood, a split would be mandated, and so I prepared for it by deciding on the three book split instead of a two book split, as I feel it fit the narrative flow better. However, I was working on Perrin when the first split happened, and didn't realize until afterward that by jumping back to the beginning of his story after finishing The Gathering Storm, I was going to create the issues it did with Tam.)
So you're planning on doing a Phantom Edit of your own work? I, for one, would be really interested to read something like this, but I think that what you lost in chronological clarity in the split, you gained in pacing and narrative clarity.
That said, you mentioned in a previous interview that The Gathering Storm's intensity also came from an awareness that your first effort in the Wheel of Time really needed to be a home run. Would your decisions regarding the narrative structure have changed if you didn't feel that pressure?
I wouldn't consider it a phantom edit, as I wouldn't be removing sections. I'd be moving them around, adding in a few deleted scenes. More like an extended edition mixed with pacing tweak.
I don't know how my decisions might have changed if I hadn't felt that pressure. I might have chosen to do Rand/Perrin in the first book and Egwene/Mat in the second book. Perrin/Mat have great stories in TofM—but they're not as focused as the ones for Rand/Egwene. I don't know. The timeline might have been even worse.
This is something I'd have to play with, if I were actually to attempt it, to even see if the narrative flow would work that direction now that I've made writing decisions with three books—instead of one—being the reality.
Now that I've finished reading A Memory of Light, I have to say, I think this would be an insane task. Mostly, The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight would be the things caught up in reorganizing, since A Memory of Light's timeline is internally consistent enough to justify things. It would also let you sprinkle the Black Tower POVs a bit more nicely throughout the trilogy, since the frontloading of that plot at the beginning of A Memory of Light is one of the few structural weaknesses I thought I saw.
In any case, congratulations! You've really done it! Those annotations will be fascinating, assuming you get permission to take it on.
You're right on the Black Tower structural weakness. I actually plotted that sequence to go all in Towers of Midnight, but ran up against deadlines and only did a few chapters of it. It would work far better moved earlier.
Thanks for reading. I'll see what I can do about annotations.
That makes a lot of sense. One gets the feeling that a lot of your writing was done with several different forces tugging you one way or another; collaboration can be tough, especially for artists who are used to working in the silence of their mind, and I can't imagine adding a massive fandom to that.
Seriously: congrats. Tai'shar...Utah? :)
Tai'shar Nebraska, actually. But I like Utah well enough. :)
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.
In The Gathering Storm, Rand says to Nynaeve: "Dream on my behalf, Nynaeve. Dream for things I no longer can." Was this a red herring? Or was it a completely innocent statement?
It wasn't a red herring. I meant it as a completely innocent statement. It was just about Rand telling Nynaeve to keep on wishing for him to be able to live.
The real standout question for me was someone who asked if there was anything that Brandon found difficult or uncomfortable to write.
Brandon talked about going into the outline, finding a couple things that made him go "Huh, that's interesting," (making specific mention of a certain conversation involving dresses and the color thereof), but the one that really stood out was "Oh, come on, you're going to make me write a spanking scene?"
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.
(to Melissa) Cool t-shirt! [laughter]
Hi; my name's Melissa Snedeker; I'm from Colorado Springs. I have been reading the series for about ten years now. Love it. My question is to Brandon. There is a notable difference between you and Robert Jordan's writing. I was wondering what the biggest influence that you had on the books [was], and what were your main thoughts that you added on top of Robert Jordan's?
I usually shy away from saying too much about this because we prefer that when you read the books you not spend a lot of time trying to figure out what was me and what was Robert Jordan. It's safe to say that, at any given point in the book, you will find my influence and his influence.
That said, I've said before the epilogue of this book—and significant chunks of the last little part as well, but specifically the epilogue—was written by him before he passed away, so you do know that. Things I've said before—and I'm probably not going to say much more than this, at least until the books have been out for a while—in Gathering Storm, if it was Egwene, Egwene's plotline was more Robert Jordan, and Rand's plotline was a little more me—we both were involved in both, but there is that—and if it was in Towers of Midnight, Mat's plotline was more Robert Jordan, and Perrin's plotline was more me.
But it's really hard to get down into specifics, because I don't want you focusing on that, and beyond that, I've even started to forget. [laughter] Because I've been working on this... No really! You guys laugh about that, but I've been working on it so long, I will do things, and it's things that came out of the notes, and then I'll go back and look and I have forgotten that those things came from the notes, because at this point in the creative process, you're building a book, and you're looking for the inspirations from the stories or from the notes, and they're kind of sometimes the same to me, whether it's the notes or the stories. And so, anyway, I'm sorry to give you kind of a roundabout non-answer to your question, but maybe in another year or so I can say a little bit more. But really, we would rather it just remain....we don't want it to be at the forefront of people's minds when they're reading.
Yeah. Alright, thank you so much.
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]
Are you speaking of Hinderstap? (Questioner explains further.) ...Yes you're speaking of Hinsderstap. Hinderstap came out of working with bubbles of evil and things like this, and Harriet saying to me at one point, "The book’s not creepy enough." [laughter] She said, "Go read..."—she gave me the scene with the dead rat from early—is it Eye of the World, that has that scene, where they're in the dreams, and things?—she's like, "Get me some more creepy. It's supposed to be getting worse and worse." And so I'm like, "Alright, creepy it is." And that was where it came from.
Thus is the nature of inspiration.
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.
Yeah. Well, I caught Tom Doherty at a convention a couple years ago. He was alone, which doesn't happen very often. So, I chatted to him a little bit about this. At that time it was one book, and he said, "Well, he's actually written like close to 1,000 pages so far, and he's only gotten like 1/3 into Jordan's notes. So, we might have to split the book into two." And then lo and behold, there's going to be three books.
It's an enormous amount of work and we feel that fans will enjoy it better, if we give it to them 1/3 at a time, for three years. As opposed to making them wait an extra three years and then get the whole thing.
Yeah. What happened was. . . and I want to make this perfectly clear as I try to explain this. I've not expanded the size of the book at all. Robert Jordan, before he passed away, kept saying, "This book is going to be enormous. This book is going to be huge. They're going to have to sell a wagon with the bookstores, so you can get it out of the bookstore." And I took that to heart and was writing it as I felt he would have written it. He wanted this book to be enormous.
And Tom Doherty and Harriet made the call, I left it up to them, that they were going to decide how it was going to be divided or if it was going to be divided or if they were going to be printing it as one. And what really happened is about January of this year, Tom and Harriet got together and they looked at what we had and they made the call for two reasons. One reason being, they felt that it was too large to publish as one book. Harriet had said to me, kind of in private, she said, "I don't think Jim could have done this in one book." I don't think he was planning to do this in one book. He maybe would have tried to get them to publish it as one book, but the realities of the publishing business . . . the larger reason I think that they did it because it was going to take me another two years to finish that one book if we were going to be publishing it as one. And they didn't feel that it was right to make the fans wait that long. It's already been four years since the last Wheel of Time book.
And so the decision was made that they would take the first third, which I had finished already, and then have me work with it and edit it so that it was a single volume and it doesn't read like the first third of a story. The way I approached writing this made for some very natural break points. And they were going to publish that and then we would publish the second third and the third third. And it's really more about the fact that this just takes time. These things are enormously difficult to write, in a good way, but very, very hard, because of how much work it requires to get it right and how many pages there are. I mean the first third is going to be as long as an average Wheel of Time book.
And so you can imagine stacking three copies of Eye of the World on top of each other; that's how long Jim planned this book to be.
Are you nervous about The Gathering Storm's reception?
I was a lot more nervous before I got it done. The fan community realizes that Robert Jordan wanted this book written, and they want to know the ending. There are going to be people who don't like it—I think that's inevitable. I can't write this book as well as Robert Jordan would have. That said, I think I've done a dang good job.
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.
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.
You said in The Gathering Storm, the Rand was very dark. Was his darkness in the book hard to write?
Rand's darkness was certainly hard to write. But there's a piece of the writer that says when this is tough, that's good. One, you're pushing yourself. Two, if it's emotionally hard for you, and you're doing this the right way, it's going to be emotionally hard on the reader, and that's a sign that they will be emotionally invested. So yes, it was hard. How did I get into the mindset? The same way I do everything. There's actually a lot of method acting to writing, where you sit down and become that character for a time. Harriet has a story about Robert Jordan and how he did it. She could always tell.
I could generally tell when he came in for the evening news and supper whether he had been writing a good person or a bad person. In particular there was an evening when he came in and slammed the door, and was skulking around the wall like this [hunches up against the bookshelf behind her], and I said, "You've been writing Padan Fain, haven't you?" And he said, "How did you know?" Usually he came in and said "Hello, honey!"
So you get in the mindset and go, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, and if it doesn't, you throw it away and start again the next day.
Hello, Mr. Sanderson. This may sound like a strange question, but in Russian WoT-fandom we have a lot of heated debates about it. Some people think "Rand trying to kill Tam"—is part of Cadsuane's Plan. So, [was the] meeting with Tam in tGS:47 planned to "soften" Rand or to purposely provoke him (by mention of Cadsuane's name) and cause emotional outburst that had led him to catharsis after all?
Cadsuane did not expect what happened to happen.
When you took over writing the Wheel of Time series, was there anything that RJ had in his notes that just completely surprised you?
Hmm... The scene where Egwene gets a specific visitor in The Gathering Storm surprised me the most, I think. Also, at the end of Towers where Moiraine and Thom get engaged. I hadn't noticed how strong the clues about those two were.
Will we find out who killed Asmodean in The Gathering Storm?
The Gathering Storm: Writing Process
I attacked the project in earnest in the summer and fall of 2008. I realized early on that there was too much to keep in mind for me to write in a strict chronological fashion, as I had normally done in the past. For this project, I needed to take groups of characters, dump all of the information about them into my mind (like loading a program into RAM), and write for weeks on just that group. This way, I could keep track of the voices of the many characters and maintain the numerous subplots.
The hardest part of this project, I feel, was keeping track of the subplots and the voices of the side characters. This is not surprising; though I'd read the Wheel of Time many times, I was not a superfan. I loved the books, but I was not among the people who made websites, wikis, and the like for the books. I read the books to study the writing and enjoy the story; I did not spend too much time keeping track of which minor Aes Sedai was which.
I could no longer be lax in this area; I had to know every one of them. Part of Robert Jordan's genius was in the individual personalities of all of these side characters. So I began dividing the last book (which was at that time still one novel in my mind) into sections. There were five of them. Four of these—one for Rand, one for Egwene, one for Mat, and one for Perrin—would push these four main plots toward the ending. They would happen roughly simultaneously. The other plotlines leading up to the Last Battle, and then the battle itself, were the fifth section.
When Harriet asked me about splitting the book, she wondered if there was a natural breaking point. I told her breaking it once wouldn't work—but breaking it twice might. I didn't feel A Memory of Light would work as two volumes. Looking at my outline and what I needed to accomplish, two books would either mean one very long book and one normal-sized one, or two books split equally. Both would have been awkward. The former because doing a double-sized Wheel of Time book would have the same problems as just printing the original 2000-page novel. 1400 pages isn't much better in publishing terms. 1000, like some of the Wheel of Time books, already pushes against those limits.
The second option—two 1000-page books—was even more of a problem. If we cut it in the middle like that, we'd get the first half of all four plot sequences I mentioned above—but none of their climaxes. This (writing one book as a setup book, with the payoffs mostly happening in another book) was an experiment that Robert Jordan had already attempted, and he had spoken of the problems it created. He was a better writer than I am, and if he couldn't accomplish such a split, I didn't want to attempt it.
Instead, I felt that splitting the book as three books would allow us to have complete arcs in each one. Two, actually, for each of The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight—followed by the climactic book, A Memory of Light. So I set out to divide the plots and decide what would go where.
I knew fans would be skeptical of me taking over the project in the first place, and I knew they'd be more skeptical when we announced a three-book split. That meant I wanted my most dynamic plots in the first book. (I knew the ending would carry its own book, and was never worried about that one being dynamic enough.) In addition, I wanted to split the four sequences—Rand/Egwene/Mat/Perrin—so that we had at least one in each book that Robert Jordan had done a lot of work on. Rand and Perrin had much less material finished for them than Mat and Egwene. So it was either Rand/Egwene or Perrin/Mat for the first book.
It soon became clear that I needed to lead with Rand/Egwene. They mirrored each other in very interesting ways, with Rand's narrative descent and Egwene's narrative ascent. When Rand was being contemplative, Egwene's plot had action—and vice versa. While my personal favorite of the four is Perrin's arc, I felt his involved a lot of buildup and some less straightforward plotting as we pushed toward his climactic moments. I also decided that the plots would work with shaving off some of what Rand/Egwene were doing to save it for the second book, but I couldn't do the same as easily for Perrin/Mat.
A book was forming in my head. Rand's absolute power driving him toward destruction and Egwene's specific lack of power elevating her toward rebuilding the White Tower. We needed a Mat section—I didn’t want him absent for the book—so Hinderstap was my creation, devised after Harriet asked me to be "more disturbing and horrifying" in regards to the bubbles of evil that were coming into the book.
The Egwene plot was an absolute delight to work on. Of all the things that Robert Jordan had been building for this last book (including the final chapter) before he died, I feel this was the most fully formed. Egwene's rise and the Seanchan assault played together perfectly in classic Wheel of Time fashion, and I got to participate in unique ways, working with his notes and instructions to craft his plotlines exactly as I feel he envisioned them.
One large change I did make was splitting the Egwene dinner with Elaida into two distinct scenes, instead of one single scene. I felt the pacing worked much better this way, and it complemented the Rand sequence better with the first dinner happening, Egwene getting sent to further work, then a climactic second dinner happening where I could really bring about Egwene's victory, all without her ever channeling.
In the Egwene sequence, I got to do the most truly collaborative work with Robert Jordan. In other places, I inserted scenes he'd written. In many others, I had to go with my gut, lacking instruction. With Egwene, I had a blend of explanations of scenes, written scenes, and Q&A prompts from Robert Jordan that made me feel as if I were working directly with him to bring about the sequence. If you want to see a full sequence in the books that I think is the closest to the way he'd have done it if he could have, I'd suggest the Egwene sequence in The Gathering Storm. (And beyond. Most of what we have for her was by his direction, inclusive of the events leading up to—and including—Merrilor.)
In taking on this project, one of my personal goals—if the series would allow it—was to focus more time on the main characters, particularly Rand. I love the middle books, with their exploration of other plots and characters, but the first book presented to us Rand, Perrin, Mat, and Egwene as our main characters. I feel that, in the true nature of the Wheel of Time, the appropriate thing to do was bring the attention back to them for the final books—and I feel Robert Jordan would have done so himself.
Rand needed to be the heart of the three novels. In pondering how to accomplish his outline, I was reminded of things I'd felt when first reading The Dragon Reborn. Rand's anguish as a character was powerful to me, and I thought, "Surely he can't go lower, be forced to go through more, than he's had happen to him here." The next few books affirmed this.
Then I read Lord of Chaos. That book breaks your heart; I found myself amazed that Rand could be brought down even lower. This progressed through the next books, with more being piled upon Rand—but the low points of Lord of Chaos are the most stark in my mind. I remember thinking, "Surely this is the bottom."
That was why, in The Gathering Storm, I needed to attempt what Robert Jordan had successfully done twice. I needed to bring Rand even lower than the reader had assumed, expected, or even thought possible. This was in part to fulfill arcs Robert Jordan had in place, in part because of his love for the Monomyth and the Campbellian hero's journey, but mostly because it felt right to me. Rand's redemption, so to speak, needed to be preceded by his lowest point in the series.
This also offered me an interesting storytelling opportunity. In the original outline, Rand's descent, his decision on Dragonmount, and his following actions as the Dragon Reborn would all happen in a single volume. In splitting the books, I could do the first part in one book, then have his actions in the second book introduce an interesting tension—the question of whether or not this new Rand was still the Rand we loved. I could prompt readers to fear that just as he became unrecognizable in the depths of his fall, he might become something unknowable in the heights of his redemption. It would make for a new kind of conflict, one I'd never explored before, through Towers of Midnight—before finally giving Rand more viewpoints in A Memory of Light to humanize him again. (Something Harriet was very glad to hear I was planning to do. Her main point regarding Rand was that he, in performing the actions he did in the last book, had to be very human in his approach to them. This was to be the story of an ordinary man who achieved something amazing, not an unknowable deity doing the same.)
I have a fondness for Aviendha, my personal favorite of the female leads in the Wheel of Time. (My favorite among the male leads is Perrin.) I wanted to see a return of Avi in the last books, as I felt we just hadn't had enough of her lately. I also have an interesting relationship with Nynaeve, a character who I (as a young man) resented. My opinion of her is the one that grew the most during the course of my reading as just a fan, and by Knife of Dreams I absolutely loved her. I knew that with all of the crowding in the last books, she actually wouldn't have a large part to play in the Last Battle. (Very few would be able to do so, beyond Rand/Egwene/Perrin/Mat.) Therefore, it was important to me to give her a solid and interesting sequence of scenes through both The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight. Her raising was not instructed by the notes, but was something I was insistent be in the books. (And along those lines, one thing Harriet insisted happen—and I was all too ready to oblige—was a meeting between Rand and his father.)
To be continued.
The Gathering Storm: What did I learn?
The obvious thing I learned has to do with juggling so many side plots. I'd attempted this level of complexity one time before in my life, the first draft of The Way of Kings. (Written in 2002–2003, this was very different from the version I published in 2010, which was rebuilt from the ground up and written from page one a second time.) The book had major problems, and I felt at the time they came from inexpert juggling of its multitude of viewpoints. I've since advised new writers that this is a potential trap—adding complexity by way of many viewpoints, when the book may not need it. Many great epics we love in the genre (The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire included) start with a small group of characters, many in the same location, before splitting into much larger experiences with expansive numbers of viewpoints.
I couldn't afford to be bad at this any longer. Fortunately, finishing the Mistborn trilogy had taught me a lot about juggling viewpoints. Approaching The Wheel of Time, I was better able to divide viewpoints, arrange them in a novel, and keep them in narrative rhythm with one another—so they complemented one another, rather than distracting or confusing the reader.
The other primary thing I feel I gained working on this book is a better understanding of my outlining process. Robert Jordan, as I said in previous installments, seems to have been more of a discovery writer than an outline writer—I'm the opposite. Working with The Gathering Storm forced me to take all of these notes and fragments of scenes and build a cohesive story from them. It worked surprisingly well. Somehow, my own process melded perfectly with the challenge of building a book from all of these parts. (That's not to say that the book itself was perfect—just that my process adapted very naturally to the challenge of outlining these novels.)
There are a lot of little things. Harriet's careful line edits taught me to be more specific in my word choice. The invaluable contributions of Alan and Maria taught me the importance of having assistants to help with projects this large, and showed me how to make the best use of that help. (It was something I started out bad at doing—my first few requests of Alan and Maria were to collect things I never ended up needing, for example.) I gained a new awe for the passion of Wheel of Time fandom, and feel I grew to understand them—particularly the very enthusiastic fans—a little better. This, in turn, has informed my interactions with my own readers.
I also learned that the way I do characters (which is the one part of the process I do more like a discovery writer) can betray me. As evidenced below.
The Gathering Storm: What did I do wrong?
My take on Mat is very divisive among Wheel of Time fans. A great number feel I did him poorly in The Gathering Storm. I've had a similar number approach me and tell me they like my Mat better than they did in previous books. Unfortunately, in doing so, these latter readers prove that the first readers are right. People don't come to me and say "I like your Perrin" or "I dislike your Perrin." They don't do it for Rand, Egwene, or any of the other major characters. While undoubtedly there are some who feel this way about those characters, there isn't a consensus opinion among a large number of fans as there is that Mat was DIFFERENT in The Gathering Storm. Those who like him better are likely ones who just naturally prefer the way I do a roguish character as opposed to the way Robert Jordan did one. It doesn't mean Mat is better—just that I wrote him differently, and anytime there's a difference, some will prefer the changed version. (There are even people who prefer New Coke!)
I don't mean to demean the opinions of those who feel Mat was great in The Gathering Storm. I'm glad you enjoyed him, and I think there is some excellent writing involved in his viewpoints. However, I feel that I was wrong and the critics are right. Looking at Robert Jordan's Mat and what I wrote, there are some subtle differences that made Mat read wrong to a sizable portion of the audience. (Jason Denzel, who is a good friend, was the first to point it out to me—not maliciously, but truthfully. His comment was along the lines of, "I think your take on Mat feels like very early books Mat." This was a nice way of saying that my Mat lacked some of the depth of characterization he'd gained over the course of the latter books of the series.)
My Mat wasn't an attempt to fix or change Mat—the sense that Mat is "off" was created by me trusting my instincts and in this case being wrong. You see, as I say above, I discovery-write characters. I write a viewpoint, and then judge if it has the right feel. I try again, changing the way the character reacts and thinks, until I arrive at the right feel. It's like casting different actors in a role, and I do this quite deliberately—I feel that there is a danger in outlining as much as I do. It risks leaving your characters feeling wooden, that they are simply filling roles in a plot. (I find that many thrillers, which as a genre focus on tight plotting, have this problem.)
To combat this, I let my characters grow more organically. I allow them to violate the plot outline, and then revise the outline to fit the people they are becoming. They often do this, but mostly in very small ways—usually, my casting process finds the right person for the plot, and this doesn't require major revisions as they grow.
However, I've read The Wheel of Time over and over—and I had never noticed that my picture of Mat was still deeply influenced by his book one/two appearance. The sidekick rogue. While some of my favorite parts of the series are his latter appearances where he gains a great deal of characterization (although this starts in book three), I cast the wrong Mat in these books, and I simply wrote him poorly. It was a version of Mat, and I don't think it's a disaster—but he's much farther from his correct characterization than the other characters are.
The interesting thing about this is, though it is the biggest mistake I made in my writing of The Gathering Storm, it also is one of the things that taught me the most. My digging into viewpoint for the next book became one of the greatest learning experiences of my career so far.
To be continued.