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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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Jordan said he didn't really know, as he is constantly writing and cutting parts. He writes from the beginning of the story to the end, and then cuts and edits large chunks, pulling together threads. He doesn't even think about a working title, but lets the story determine it.
He says there will be at least three more books, maybe four.
Jordan knows the very last part of the final book, but doesn't know how long it will be till he'll put it in.
One humorous story mentions the quote saying he will continue writing until the day the nails are put into his coffin. One elderly lady apparently told him that she was a lot closer to that than he was so he had better hurry up.
How many books?—"I don't know. Two, maybe three, maybe four. I know the last scene. But after I write the last scene that is all there is for these characters." (No Eddings sequels) "Maybe a series in another Age."
What other books?—"More books planned than I have years to write them."
I was beginning to think you had joined the Navy or gotten married or something. It's good to hear from you again. I suppose I'll just jump right in.
1. I have never signed books in San Diego. San Francisco, yes. Los Angeles, yes. San Diego, no. 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. I will not write one word more in this world than I need to reach that scene.
I know where I'm going.
The story of TWoT evolved during a very long period, in part beginning in the middle of the seventies with the idea of the Breaking of the World, before he found the "final scene in the final book" and began to actually write The Eye of the World. The main impetus from the beginning was the notion of "men breaking the world" (my emphasis), and that men able to channel must be killed, controlled or stopped at all costs for 3,000 years. This led naturally to a society where women had great power and respect.
As an example of this, he puts forth Davram Bashere's reaction to Faile being a Hunter of the Horn. His initial negative response does not come from that Faile is a girl, but that she only is 17 years old. Her gender is irrelevant to the issue.
With the final scene in the final book (which he eloquently said did not have to be identical with Tarmon Gai'don), all major plot lines will be resolved, and most minor ones. Some minor plot lines would still be unresolved, as a way to let the world continue to live and breathe. The surviving characters would still have lives to go on with, even if more "boring" ones. Robert Jordan though stated clearly that if he was going to write another book(s) in the WoT universe (something he thought was not going to happen), it would be placed at least 1,000 years apart from the events in the current books. There would not be any spin-off stories, or stories written by other authors set in the WoT universe, either.
No, not really. What I know is that we're heading for a final scene that I have known from the beginning. I could have written it before I wrote the first book. And it would be very little different from what I would write today. I know what has to happen—those major events, those mountains I talked about—I know what has to happen between now and that final scene.
I really don't know whether it's going to be another two books, or another three, or maybe even another four. I don't know. I'm not going to make any promises to anybody, or any suggestions to anybody, about how many books. I've done that in the past and seen it taken as promise: "Jordan said. Jordan said, it's going to be this many books." Well, no I didn't, I said it might be. But by the time it gets out into print, and on the street, it's Jordan promised. Well, Jordan didn't promise, and Jordan isn't promising, so there.
There will be a few more books, some, not a lot, hopefully fewer than seven more.
He knows the final scene of the last book, all the major events he wants to have happen and who will live and who will die. When he starts a book, he decides which of these events he wants to try to do and then writes it so they happen.
He will tie up all the major plot lines, but will leave a lot of the minor ones unresolved. He finds it too unrealistic for a series to end with all of life's problems solved. Expect the series to end with the major problems solved, but a lot of people will still have tumultuous lives ahead of them.
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.
I do have another series perking around in the back of my head already. Books generally have a long gestation period with me, so this is not at all too early. There isn't a word on paper, yet, of course. It will be different cultures, different rules, a different cosmology. Nobody likes to redo what he's already done.
He said the book-signing tour will run through November 22nd. He'll spend two days fishing in Canada, and then return home to Charleston for Thanksgiving. (He said he finds being on tour exhausting, and always spends the following several days doing nothing at all.) After Thanksgiving, he'll start in on the next volume.
Someone mentioned the Internet-based rumors about him suffering from heart attacks / other forms of poor health. I couldn't tell from his expression whether RJ was amused or annoyed: Probably both equally. He replied that he's in good health with a resting heart rate of 71 beats per minute and good cholesterol.
He told quite a few people that the series would be requiring a minimum of three more volumes, perhaps more—and pointed out that he'd had to find time to work on "New Spring" and the Guide, in addition to The Path of Daggers. He also pointed out that, so far, the books have always been published within a month of completion, which he called "instantaneous for the publishing world". He stressed that he wants to reach the end (the final scene that he worked out 15 years ago), and would like to be "as compact as possible". (He said "Don't laugh.")
Regarding today's signing at Olsson's in DC:
Fairly small crowd, as expected. Very few questions asked (that I overheard), though RJ did repeat the "I've known the last scene since..." bit at least four or five times.
He also told one fellow who wanted a photograph that he didn't mind having his picture taken, but he insisted on keeping his clothes on. Someone in the line said "Damn!" rather loudly, and RJ looked back and said that he hears that a lot. Well...
Is it possible to know how many volumes the Wheel of Time will be?
Sigh! At least three more. I know I’ve said that before, but it’s still the case. When I started this, I really believed I could finish it all in four or five books. Maybe six, I said, but I didn’t think it would take that long. By the end of The Eye of the World, I was pretty sure it would have to be six, and by the end of The Great Hunt, I knew it would be more. I have known the last scene of the last book since before I began writing, so I know where I’m heading, but as to how long to get there, I am just putting my head down and writing as hard as I can. Two minutes left in the game, four points down, and we’ve got the ball on our own five-yard line; they’ve been covering the receivers like a blanket and cutting off the outside like pastrami in a cheap deli, so we’re going to do it the old-fashioned way, straight up the middle, pound it down their throats, and nobody slacks off unless he’s been dead a week and can prove it. If you know what I mean. If I can finish it in three more books, I will, but I can’t make any promises on that, just that I will reach the end as soon as I can.
Regarding this evening's signing at Tower Books in Richmond:
The crowd was not very large, perhaps 50-75 people.
I had a lot of different ideas perking in the back of my head about the distortion of information. Whether you are distant from an event in time or in space, it doesn't matter. The further you are from the event, the less likely you are to know it actually happened.
At the same time, I was thinking about the source of legends, that some of them must be connected to actual events, actual people, but of course, would be distorted in that way by being passed orally for generations perhaps, before they were written down. Perhaps for hundreds of years.
I was thinking about what it would really be like to be tapped on the shoulder and told you were born to be the salvation of mankind, and oh, by the way, you'll probably have to die in the end...There's no rule book, kid, and you can't get out of the game. You've been drafted so get in there and win one for the Gipper.
And there were a lot of things perking around. The only odd point is, I guess, is that really at the same time, I thought of what had come to be the last scene of the last book and it seemed to me that it was very interesting, and I wanted to figure out how I could get to that last scene. After a number of years of poking this around in my head, I had a rough outline of The Wheel of Time.
He also mentioned some things about the variation in his readers. This group of Hell's Angels a couple of years ago who came to him when there was some question about his health, telling him that they'd desecrate his grave if he died before finishing the story.
Around the same time something was asked about him knowing the final scene (or maybe that was even earlier), because Rowling [the Harry Potter author; at least, I think it was her that was mentioned here] had already written the final sentence of her work. Jordan came with the usual story about him knowing the scene since before starting the series. He doesn't have it written down anywhere. Harriet already knows the final scene, she's very good at getting things out of him (at least, that's what I think I recall), but no one else... And then later he said absolutely nobody knew it besides him.
BEFORE you say "RAFO", and BEFORE you choose not to answer this next question, please consider the following and hear us out: You claim you've already written the ending of the series. You probably enjoy us squirming as we endlessly try to predict the outcome of the Last Battle. We've been patiently waiting for over a decade. Now that we're nearing the end somewhat, could you please, please answer this question: What is the last word of the last chapter of the last book? JK Rowling told the world that Harry Potter ends with the word "scar". Come on....we know you can give us something like that to chew on.
First off, a small correction. I have NEVER said that I had already written the last scene of the last book. I HAVE said that I COULD HAVE written the last scene of the last book in 1984, and that if I had done so and now chose to write it again, some of the wording might have changed, but what happens in that scene would be the same, now as then. Given that, as envisioned in 1984, the last scene would have ended with the word "world". Today, it might end with word "turns." Now what does that tell you? Not much, I think. I mean, you can extrapolate at least part of the final sentence of Harry Potter, at least part of what it will say, from JK Rowling's "last word." For me, it only means that I have to be careful how I end the next book, or some of you might think it's the last.
And, oh yes. I do like seeing you squirm.
You've said before that you know where this series is going to end.
I've known the last scene of the last book for 15 years. I could have written it easily 15 years ago, and it would be only changes in the wording, not in what happens, from that to now.
So will the male-female duality be resolved? Or is this a "read and find-out" question?
Read and find out. What I consider the major story lines will be resolved. There will be a number of minor story lines that will not be resolved, for the simple reason that there is no point to any real world where everything is resolved. That's always something that has irritated me about some novels—that you reach a point at the end of the book, and everyone's problems have now been solved, and all of the world's problems have been solved. I get the feeling I could put these characters and this world on a shelf and put a bell jar over them and go away. There's nothing left there alive.
That's the way it's going to be. I even intend to set a small hook in the last scene.
Uhm, no, there is no possibility that it will never end. I will wrap up all of the major storylines, I will wrap up some of the minor storylines. Other minor storylines will be left hanging, and I'm going to do worse than that. I am going to set a hook in the last scene of the last book, that will make some people who don't believe what I say, think that I am setting up a sequel. What I am doing, what I will be doing, is trying to leave you with a view of a world that is still alive. One hope that some fantasies have is that when you reach the end of the book, or you reach the end of the trilogy, all the characters' problems are solved. All of the things that they have been doing are neatly tied of in a bow, all of their world's problems have been solved. And there's no juice left, there's no life left. you think 'I ought to set this world on a shelf and put a bell-jar on top of it, to keep the dust off.
When I finish the Wheel of Time, I want to do it in such a way that you will think it's still out there somewhere, people still doing things. This story has been concluded, this set of stories has been concluded, but they're still alive.
"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."
Before I start a book I always sit down and try to think how much of the story I can put into it. The outline is in my head until I sit down and start doing what I call a ramble, which is figuring how to put in the bits and pieces. In the beginning, I thought The Wheel of Time was six books and I'd be finished in six years. I actually write quite fast. The first Conan novel I did took 24 days. (I wrote seven Conan books—for my sins—but they paid the bills for a number of years.) For my Western, I was under severe time constraints in the contract so it was 98,000 words in 21 days—a killer of a schedule, especially since I was not working on a computer then, just using an IBM Correcting Selectric!
I started The Wheel of Time knowing how it began and how it all ended. I could have written the last scene of the last book 20 years ago—the wording would be different, but what happened would be the same. When I was asked to describe the series in six words, I said, 'Cultures clash, worlds change—cope. I know it's only five, but I hate to be wordy.' What I intended to do was a reverse-engineered mythology to change the characters in the first set of scenes into the characters in the last set of scenes, a bunch of innocent country folk changed into people who are not innocent at all. I wanted these boys to be Candides as much as possible, to be full of 'Golly, gee whiz!' at everything they saw once they got out of their home village. Later they could never go back as the same person to the same place they'd known.
But I'd sit down and figure I could get so much into a story, then begin writing and realize halfway in that I wasn't even halfway through the ramble. I'd have to see how I could rework things and put off some of the story until later. It took me four years to write The Eye of the World, and I still couldn't get as much of the story into it as I wanted; same with The Great Hunt. I finally reached a point where I won't have to do that. For Knife of Dreams I thought, "I've got to get all of that into one book: it's the penultimate volume!" And I did. Well, with one exception, but that's OK. That one exception would probably have added 300 pages to the book but I see how to put it in the last volume in fewer.
As I've always said, this isn't my call. Harriet and Tom will decide this. My gut instinct says yes, but I don't know how that process will proceed. I think that the best thing I can do for the Wheel of Time readers is FINISH the book, no matter how long, with as much speed as I can manage while still maintaining the highest of quality. That way, even if the novel gets split, readers can be reassured by the fact that the book IS done and that it is not going to continue on endlessly.
One of my biggest fears is that readers will assume I'm artificially inflating the length of the book in order to keep the Wheel of Time going and bring in more cash. I promise you in all sincerity that this is NOT the case. I'm writing a single book, following the outline where I can, filling in holes where I must. We are not going to keep you juggling forever. I will finish this book as quickly as I can, so that even if the first half is released on its own, you can know that the second half is done and coming soon.
Remember. Robert Jordan DID write the ending himself. I just have to get us there.
I had not heard of Brandon until. . . it was the week of my husband's death. A friend was visiting. She put in front of me a print-out, and it was the eulogy for Robert Jordan that Brandon had posted on his web site. Brandon's eulogy was really beautiful, and very loving. And I thought, gosh, this guy. . . he knows what the series is all about.
And I got on the phone, called Tom Doherty and said, "Send me one of Sanderson's books." And he's a bit darker than Robert Jordan, but the series, as everyone knows, is heading towards Tarmon Gai'don, which is the battle with the Dark One that will decide the fate of the world. Tom said, "Okay, I'll go for that. We'll go for Brandon."
You made it clear that you would love to do this. And that was wonderful. That's what I needed to hear.
The next thing was for me to fly to Charleston. Harriet drives me to her house. You know, I'm fanboying all of this. And you said, "Do you want some dinner?" And my response was, "No, I want the ending. I want the ending and I want to know who killed Asmodean."
And you're like, "Oh, all right. Well, here it is." And you handed me that, and kind of waved me into the den, I guess it is, or the sitting room. "Head over there, go ahead, go for it."
And so I was over there poring over the materials. And I flipped right to the ending and read because Robert Jordan had always said, "I have the ending in mind". And all the readers, all the fans had known this. And we’d listen to interviews and he'd been saying for years, "I know the ending. The last scene is in my head." And so I got to read that last scene before dinner.
Then I retreated to my cave, and crawled in.
No, but I'd like to.
We're in a little better shape. Jim actually finished scenes. We have a lot more to work with. He wrote the end himself! He left landmarks to follow from here to the end. Not specific details, just "strong stuff" to get us to the end.
"There are no characters that we don't know how they end up."
Alright, well, there was discussion of the outrigger novels by Jason Denzel and he handled that very beautifully. I wasn't on the panel, but I added this, and I'll give it to you too. The big reason that there are these three books, the three books to finish the main sequence, is that a couple weeks before Jim died he asked me who he thought could finish the books.
Now, all along, while he was talking about this piece of work, as we were fishing, one of the things he would say, and other people in the family had heard it too, was, "If I die, and somebody tries to finish this, you will kill them. And if you don't, I will come back and haunt you and them. Because this is my work, and nobody is going to finish it but me. And if I go too soon, that's it." And we'd do that in laughter, but he was serious. This is his work.
So when he asks me, two weeks before he died, "Who do you think could finish it?," it set me back on my heels. Now, with that he told us that he wanted the work finished, really wanted it finished. So even though Harriet was devastated by the loss, we all were, we felt obliged to finish this work for him. That doesn't mean there will be outriggers or what-have-you. There may be. But the big thing here is now about Harriet, and if at the end of this, if she is still having fun, who knows where it goes.
When you first started work on the Wheel of Time what was the first thing you looked up in the notes/material?
Asmodean's killer. After that, I read the ending.
Perrin was the easiest, for the same reasons as I called him my favorite above. Mat was the hardest for me to write, because his humor is so different from my own.
The ending has already been written by Robert Jordan, and as a reader I found it extremely satisfying when I reached it. And so I feel very confident that the ending of the next book is going to be what everyone has been hoping for and wanting—without being exactly what they expect. I think the ending that Robert Jordan wrote is just wonderful. But in another respect I'm a bit sad, because I won't get to experience the ending for the first time when a new Wheel of Time book comes out in the bookstores like everyone else will.
If you do a search online you can find a few words that Robert Jordan said about the closing sentence of the Wheel of Time before he passed away. It's out there in an interview. I won't say whether it's going to stay that way or not, because essentially what he says is "This is what it would be if I wrote it right now, but it often changes" and things like that. He wrote it, not me, so I don't feel right giving a spoiler on that. But if you look around, the interview is out there where he said some words on it.
I read somewhere that RJ said the final story wasn't set in stone, and was fluid depending of circumstances, feelings, etc. Are the notes that he left older notes from the beginning (original thoughts), or newer notes from right before he passed (changed from his feeling in the beginning of the series)?
RJ never actually said that; see the tags for 'the last scene' and 'how will it end?' to see what RJ did say about it (mostly that the outcome was entirely set in stone, but some of the details on how to get there were not).
I have both. There is a lot of flexibility, because often he implied things like: "I'll do this, or maybe this. The tone I'm looking for is this. Make it feel that way."
Some are hardfast. He wrote the last scene of the series, for example.
Did RJ leave notes intending that somebody else would finish the series? Or are they notes to himself?
Most of the notes were to himself. A large chunk are things he dictated on his death bed in the last weeks, after changing his mind and asking Harriet to find someone. (Originally, he had not wanted anyone to finish it for him.) Some of those dictations are directed more at me.
You know, it's really like becoming stepfather to 30 million people at the same time. The fans, number one, have been great. And they know that before Robert Jordan passed away, he asked his wife to find somebody because he wanted the series completed. And so, everyone knows that this is according to his wishes, which I think helps a whole lot. But at the same time, I feel a deep responsibility to not make these books about me, but to make them about Robert Jordan and about the Wheel of Time. I mean, I was handed a lot of very fascinating notes. In some cases, Robert Jordan had completed scenes for the books. In other cases, he had dictated on his deathbed some scenes that were to happen. He had millions of words of notes about the world and the characters and the setting, and I've been given access to all of that and asked to put together these last concluding volumes.
He'd been promising people for years and years and years that he knew the last scene of the very last book. And he actually wrote that before he passed away, and I have that in my possession. And so my goal is really to get us there without screwing it up. To step out of the way, to let the characters be themselves, and to let the world continue and the story continue as people have loved for so many years. And make sure that. . . I don't want them to see Brandon, I want them to see the Wheel of Time. And so, that's been a real challenge, to get out of the way, so to speak.
Extending back to the first clear thought I had that I can say led into the Wheel of Time was maybe 10 years before I began writing. I'm not saying I knew 10 years before I began writing what it was going to be, or that I was actually on to something that would become the Wheel of Time.
I thought I had a story set in my head, a set of stories, fixed. And when I began writing the Wheel of Time—The Eye of the World in particular—I realized I didn't have as much of it as clear as I thought I did. There were things that I needed to work on. So The Eye of the World took me four years to write. I guess you could say, in a way, it was about 14 years of development to get the thing set.
Did you ever think it was going to turn into this epic series?
No. The story is the same story that I set out to tell. I knew before I began writing what the story was. There were details of how it worked that I didn't have fixed that I thought I knew and suddenly realized I didn't. But, I knew the beginning and the end and the things that I wanted to happen in the middle. I literally could have written the last scene of the last book before I began writing The Eye of the World. The problem has been over-optimism.
In what way?
Well, when I went to the publisher with this at Tor Books and I said, "Look, this isn't a trilogy that I'm talking about. It's going to be four or maybe five books." I said. "It could be six. I don't think so, but it could be." And I really believed that. But the over-optimism has been, "How much of the story can I get into one book?"
With every book I start out thinking I can get more of the story into this book than I actually turn out to be able to. I suddenly realize that I have to stop here or I'm going to have to write another thousand pages to really make it fit together. Or I realize that I'm going to have to take some things and do them later or I'm going to write a 2,000-page hardback, which they really would have to sell to people with a shoulder strap.
About the end of the book, as we all know, Jordan explained that he has always had the series’ ending planned. However, he was also careful to mention that he didn’t want all of the minor sub-plots to be neatly tied up at the end of the series. I think he may have been implying that such sub-plots might also make for great (long) short stories and mini-epics.
Regardless of whether or not this is true, it is clear that much will still go unanswered and leave us much to debate about, even after the series is through. In reality, every situation does not get neatly tied up and patched at the end, and after so much conflict in Jordan’s fantasy world, he doesn’t want something that unrealistic to happen there, either.
Robert Jordan often said that he intended to plant a 'hook' in the last scene, a teaser for an unresolved issue. Was this 'hook' something he planned to explore in the outriggers?
Yes, and he actually wrote that part. You'll see it when the book comes out, and it's one of the lines that will go in unchanged. Sorry!
I hope that there will be only two more books in the main sequence and then two prequels, the first prequel, New Spring, is already published. I said “I hope” because when I started out I thought it was only going to be five books, then it grew on it’s own.
So when you began The Wheel of Time you knew where you where heading?
I know exactly where I'm heading. I've known the last scene in the last book for about 20 years.
Scene I'm working on needs to be trashed and rewritten from a different viewpoint. Ah, well.
Okay, the scene is working much better now. Basically, a half-day lost, but it is worth backing up if something isn't working.
When you say a scene isn't "working" what does that mean? Bad mojo, doesn't feel right, or its there a technical reason?
All three, actually. Mostly, it just feels wrong.
And it is fixed now. Hard to judge my wordcount today, since I spent time fixing, but I'm opening a pack of Magic cards as a reward.
Current length of A Memory of Light: 335,000 words, same size as Towers of Midnight. And I haven't finished yet, nor have I added in RJ's ending.
Even with edits, this will be the longest of the three WoT books I've done. Don't worry about it being split, though. That won't happen.
Is RJ's ending ready for primetime? Or do you have an outline of how it is supposed to go?
I should be able to put it in without changing anything other than a quick smoothing of the language.
Will there be any indication in the book as to when RJ's ending starts? Like a footnote from you or Harriet or something?
No, but I will tell you once the book is out, after you've read it.
Hello! Just wondering, was the Borderland Tower sequence in Towers of Midnight (with Malenarin Rai) originally part of RJ's prologue?
He wrote most of that scene himself, actually.
Cool! Are you allowed to say whether it was part of his prologue (which I gather you split and distributed over The Gathering Storm/Towers of Midnight)?
Yes, it was.
What was the logest of all the WoT books? How many words?
Longest ones have been around 390k words. Books Four and Six. I forget which was the longer.
Any chance of reading these alternate scenes once A Memory of Light is released; on your website maybe? Kinda like DVD deleted scenes...
Why do you suppose Wikipedia is inaccurate, saying Towers of Midnight [is] 325,998? Should it be edited? Are those word counts reliable?
Likely, theirs is without the glossary, which I just noticed mine has in it.
but but but...Wikipedia says Towers of Midnight is 325,998 words! Who to trust, Wikipedia or the author!? *brain explodes*
Just noticed my edocument has the glossary attached. Maybe that's the reason for the difference. Mine is pre-copyedit too.
You usually go through a vicious edit phase right?
Yes. I tend to cut 10%, but Harriet's suggestions have usually added about that much, and we've balanced at the end.
Still hard at work on A Memory of Light. Today's scenes involve lots of loud noises.
Just curious, have you read the end scenes that RJ wrote? Or are you waiting till you get there?
I read them as soon as I got them. I needed to use them as a target 'goal' for the book.
Now, on to a scene that finally, at long last, fulfills something Min saw long ago...
I've finished all characters except Rand and Mat. (Note, I'm not writing in order; other characters have already-written scenes after this.)
Now, I have to finish Mat's climax, write a few more Rand scenes, then add in RJ's ending material. Then we're done. Very close now.
What are your thoughts on ending the WoT series that Robert Jordan started so long ago? :)
After a few hours with the family, am back at work on A Memory of Light. It's slightly possible that I'll finish it sometime during the night.
Would that make tonight A Memory of Light Eve?
Ha. Yes, I guess it would.
You can follow along, if you wish. I have twenty small points on my outline left to hit. Maybe 10k words or so. I'll tweet as I pass them.
First scene out of twenty finished. (Note that I'm using 'scene' here liberally to mean a point on the plot outline.)
Can you tell us who has the last chapter?
Afraid that would spoil too much.
Note that as I approach an ending, my writing speed goes up, as I get momentum. 10k tonight is not impossible. (Though most days I do 2-3.)
Two out of twenty scenes done. Eighteen left, and A Memory of Light will be finished.
Three out of Twenty of the remaining scenes in A Memory of Light have been finished. (If you're just now seeing this, check back to my last few posts.)
How long was it after the first two books were finished until they were published?
For the first one, about a year. For the next, about six months. This will probably be closer to the first than the second.
Scene four was slightly shorter than the others. 4 out of 20 finished so far tonight.
Scene #5 finished. 25% through the ending of A Memory of Light. Feeling good about these scenes. All is going very well.
Some of you have asked if I got the Magic cards you sent me off of my Amazon wishlist. I did! I'm waiting to open them until I'm done with A Memory of Light.
A few of these scenes are pretty emotional ones for me. It's been a long, long road. I started reading the WoT twenty-one years ago.
Just finished scene #6 out of the 20 remaining in A Memory of Light.
Scene seven is done. Thirteen more to go. This one...this one was tough to write.
I've apparently inspired a drinking game with this on both Twitter and Facebook. I'd join in, but: 1) Mormon. 2) BUSY WRITING END OF WOT. :)
Scene #8 is a tricky one. I know how it has to go, I just need to do it carefully. Getting close to having it right.
Scene #8 is finished. This is going well. I often build momentum like this during a powerful book ending, and this one is very powerful.
We shall see. We've still got three or four hours before I'd normally turn in for bed. If I start to get sleepy, I'll call it for the night.
No sense in pushing on if the quality starts to flag. Knowing myself, though, I'll be too excited to be tired for a while yet. Onward!
Glad to hear things are ending well! I can't wait to read it. Think I have time for a full re-read before A Memory of Light?
Depends on how quickly you read. :)
Cannot wait, but I agree. Is it really going to take a year to edit and publish?
I've done a dozen drafts each of the previous two books. That kind of thing takes a little bit of time...
I just did something to Mat that I've been gleefully waiting to do for three years.
Don't stress the thing I did to Mat too much. It's a little (and fun) thing I've wanted to see him do for a long time.
I have finished scene #9 out of 20 I need to write before A Memory of Light is done.
Best of luck to @BrandSanderson as I turn in for the night. I'm giddy for A Memory of Light.
Hopefully, you will wake to find the book finished.
It's almost 3:30am here and I SHOULD be in bed, but I feel like I need 2 stay up and cheer you on and also to witness THE END!
Ha. Well, there are still hours left to go, I suspect. I started at...what, 9:00 here? I'm to 1/2 and it's almost 2:00?
For those asking, it's almost 2:00 am here. The night is still young.
Just finished Scene #10. Halfway there!
I don't expect it to go longer than those. After editing, I'm pretty sure we'll settle at 350-360k words. (About 10% longer than Towers of Midnight.)
Brace yourselves. I just finished the last Mat Cauthon scene that, in all likelihood, will ever be written.
General writing question: after The editor edits, is it typical for an author to add/rewrite, or only the editor?
Only the author rewrites or adds. Never the editor. (in most cases.)
The fourteenth scene was Mat's, and now I've finished the fifteenth scene. Five more to go, and A Memory of Light is done.
Just finished scene #16. Four more to go. Guess I'm not stopping tonight, eh?
Scene #17 is finished. I was a tad on the longer side for the ones I'm doing here, as are the last three. 5:00 am here.
I keep flashing back to times I've read the WoT books through my life. Looking back, you could call Rand/Mat/Perrin my oldest friends.
Scene #18 is done. Two more to go.
Scene #19 is done. Deep breath. I'm beginning the last scene I will write in the Wheel of Time, then will add RJ's ending.
I've been listening to Pandora as I do this, but am wondering if I should pick a specific song to listen to as I finish. Suggestions?
My choice for a song to play as I write the last few paragraphs here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-0G_FI61a8
Ladies and gentlemen, A Memory of Light—the final book in The Wheel of Time—has been finished.
Now I'll open a metric gigaton of Magic cards that have been sent to me by fans, sleep for a day, and rest until next week.Then: revisions!
As for when the book will come out, Tor should do an announcement soon. Revisions will take a good six months. So fall, I expect.
Another common question: How many revisions will I do? The last two took about a dozen. (On non-WoT books, I do about seven or eight.)
Also, it's going to be tough to give direct replies to questions right now, what with like 1000 people tweeting/facebooking at me. :)
But lots of people are asking about outriggers/prequels. The answer is still the same. We'd rather not risk exploiting RJ's legacy.
It is a step I don't think we want to take. Better to stop while we're ahead. I'm sorry, but they probably won't ever happen.
And now, yes, I will go to sleep. 7am here. That's 10 hours of solid writing after a full day of solid writing, so I'm beat.
Thank you all for the good wishes. May you find water and shade.
Ah. Good morning, all. (Yes, it's five in the afternoon here.) Checking email, and...INBOX EXPLOSION. I guess I was expecting it. :)
I was really satisfied with it. It was the first thing I read out of all his notes; when I got to Harriet's house for the first time, I read that ending, and I was very satisfied. I really... I think it ties up well.
Jordan does have his detractors. Disgruntled fans—and not a few critics—question his verbosity, and many have wondered whether he could be losing control of the story.
"No, I never feel that it's getting away from me," Jordan said. "I certainly am telling it in more detail, in which case, I think it's good that I'm telling it in more books than five. Trying to compress it into five would have made it not as readable or enjoyable."
He insists that he has known what will happen in the last scene of the last book before ever setting down a word. And while he will not speculate on how long it will take to get there, Jordan does have definite plans for life after the "Wheel of Time" has finished turning.
After some more stuff I didn't hear very clearly, he told his "I could have writing the last chapter 15 years ago" story.
The next person asked if he typed, to which Jordan replied, "If I wrote it longhand it would take 8 years between books."
The next question was about the tying up of all threads, to which he said it was not going to happen. He then told how he didn't like it when in most books all the sub plots are tied up and that you could put the world in a bell jar and put it on a shelf. He wants his reads to imagine his world still living after the series is finished. He said that he was going to set a hook at the end of the last book and walk away.
He again stated that he only worked on one book at a time.
I think those who know our different writing styles will be able to pick out the differences.
It depends on how closely one watches the prose.
Something which just occurred to me was that, other than editors, advance reviewers, etc. the first people who will get their hands on the conclusion to The Wheel of Time will be the audiobook narrators—including Kramer, who has been a constant voice in the series. You've written that the final words in the series are Robert Jordan's—can you give away whether the final voice on the audiobook might be Kramer's?
Ha! I can't give you something like that. I'm sorry. Nice try, though.
Robert Jordan was a great man, and was the single greatest influence on my development as a writer. What I have done these last five years has been an attempt—a sometimes flawed but always earnest attempt—to show my appreciation. This entire genre owes him an enormous debt. My debt to him, and to Harriet, is greatest of all.
Mr. Jordan, may you rest in the Light. Everyone else, take a breath and get ready for the end. May you find his final words as satisfying to read as I did when I first picked them up five years ago. The very last scene is his, touched very little by me, as are significant chunks of the ending at large. I have achieved my goal in writing the books so that they pointed toward this ending he wrote, allowing us to include his words with as little alteration as possible.
Once again, thank you. May you always find water and shade.
Written July 30th, 2012
Posted August 1st, 2012
"The Wheel of Time" is in effect a recreation of the source of legends. I gathered together a lot of legends, fairy tales, and folk tales from around the world and stripped away the cultural references, so that just the bare story was left. The I reverse-engineered them.
You might recall a game: I've heard it called "Whispers," I've heard it called "Telephone"—a child's game. If you remember, the last child in the row stood up and said aloud, and what actually happened is what's on the piece of paper. So I've reverse-engineered to try and get back to something like what the piece of paper says. King Arthur is there, but most people don't recognize him right off. And there are a lot of other myths and legends too, although King Arthur is the most easily recognizable. As a matter of fact, I was shocked that some people didn't realize that Arthur was in the books until they read the third volume.
The story begins with The Eye of the World. That's the first book. And it begins in a very pastoral setting, with people who are very...well, innocent is the word. They are rural, they are themselves pastoral. And I tried to make the beginning almost Tolkienesque, as a homage, and as a way of saying, "This is the foundation that we're all jumping off from." But it begins to change, because I'm not trying to do a Tolkien pastiche in any way. And as we leave that pastoral setting, things begin to change. You begin to move away from the style of Tolkien. The characters begin to learn more about the world. They become more sophisticated, in the sense of having more knowledge, and thus they see the world in a more sophisticated way. They're not as innocent, as time goes on, as the books go on, as they were in the beginning. And so the tone of the books changes slightly with their worldview.
As to where the books are going—I know that exactly. I've known it from the beginning. I've known from the beginning what the last scene of the last book was going to be. I know how I intend to tie up the major threads. I know who's going to be alive, who's going to be dead, who's going to be married to whom, all these things. I know the details. I could have sat down six or seven years ago, and written the final scene of the books. And there wouldn't be a great deal of difference in what I'd write when I actually do reach that point.
A question I had, if you're still answering. I believe you said on your blog that the "very last scene" is Robert Jordan's, and touched very little by you.
Could you please specify what you mean in this? (Last scene of the main story arc, last section of the epilogue, last section of the last chapter, etc)
Thanks for all the work you have put into the series!
It's the last scene of the book. RJ had a large influence on the ending as a whole, but when I say "Last Scene" I'm referencing the final 1000 word section with the words "The End" following it.
Cool, thanks! : )
It's really a weird experience. I discovered fantasy when I was 14, and the Wheel of Time books were the first series that started when I started. I have been following it all through, and it's also one of the few series that continued with me: I enjoyed it both as a youth and as an adult. Wheel of Time has always been there through my whole career, so I understand completely how [fans are] feeling about it.
But it is also a weird experience for me as a fan. I read Robert Jordan's ending in December 2007, so part of me has had the Wheel of Time done for five years now, and the rest of the world is finally getting to catch up with me. I think that people are going to feel a lot of what I felt when I read that last scene; I was very satisfied. I loved the scene, but there was also this deep sort of sense of, "Wow, it's actually over." The series has been going for 23 years, and we have joked in Wheel of Time fandom for 22 about when the ending would come. It's a reverent feeling, it's an excited feeling, and it's also a sad feeling.
Since Robert Jordan wrote the last scene, that actually made this whole project mountains easier. I had a target to shoot at. While I didn't have a ton of written material from Robert Jordan that I could actually put in—there are about 200 pages worth of scenes and notes that needed to become somewhere around 2,500 pages [Books 12-14 by Sanderson total 2,556 pages]—a lot of those 200 pages were summaries of scenes he wanted. Robert Jordan wrote by instinct. He was what we called a discovery writer, so what was handed to me was a big pile of half-finished scenes or paragraphs where he wrote, "Well, I am either going to do this, this, or this. I was thinking of this, but it could be this." Yes, cracking an ending is hard, and the Wheel of Time had a lot of loose threads. My job was to take all those threads and weave them into an ending, which was a real challenge.
When I was handed this project by Harriet [Harriet McDougal, Robert Jordan's wife and editor], she handed it to me as a collaborator, not as a ghost writer. It's not like building a shelf from Ikea, which is good, because otherwise my creativity wouldn't have been engaged. She handed me full creative control for the first draft, and then we went into the editing phase where we really worked on it to make sure that it fit her vision and Robert Jordan's vision for the series. But going into it, nothing was off-limits. So I wrote them like I write any novel. Nothing is taken for granted, nothing is sacrosanct.
Perrin forging his hammer is probably my favorite that I worked on extensively. My favorite that Jim worked on extensively would be Verin's last scene. Rand atop Dragonmount at the end of The Gathering Storm is a pretty big one for me. In the last book, my favorite would have to be Lan's charge right at the end, which is a scene that I worked out years ago, that I pointed a lot of things toward, and specifically in this book built a lot of things around. For a fun scene, getting Mat on the back of a raken was a pure joy for me to be able to do.
What other scenes really stand out to me? Robert Jordan's last scene, which I've mentioned before, is a great one because it's become the focus, for me, for the entire sequence that I have written. From the beginning, that was the ending that I was working toward. So I was very excited to be able to actually get there.
That's just a few scenes; there are a lot of them in this book and the series.
At signings, I've often told the story of reading the last scene of The Wheel of Time. This might not be news to some of you. However, it's one of the questions I get the most. What did it feel like, some five years ago now, to read that last scene of the book as Robert Jordan wrote it?
Soon after I was tapped to help complete the series, I asked Harriet about the last scene of the book. (The one that Robert Jordan had, over the years working on the series, promised fans he knew in detail.) She told me that he had indeed written that scene—and though there were large swaths of unfinished portions of the ending that he hadn't had time to work on, he'd been determined to get that last scene on the page.
You can imagine my excitement. I flew out to Charleston for the first time in late 2007—before this, I hadn't read any of the materials, as Harriet preferred that I come get them in person. After a long flight from Salt Lake City to Charleston, Harriet picked me up at the airport and drove me to her house in the city. We got in at nine or ten, I recall, and she had soup warming on the stove. She asked if I'd like some. My reply was, "If it isn't too much trouble, I'd like to read the ending please . . ." Holding my enthusiasm was somewhat difficult.
So, I spent the next hours late into the night sitting in a chair beside Robert Jordan's computer (it had been moved, by coincidence, out of his office and into the sitting room) reading his ending to The Wheel of Time, then poring over the rest of the notes. I remember Harriet passing by once and asking—with a satisfied smile—"It's good, isn't it?"
And it is. As a Wheel of Time fan for nearly 20 years at that point, I found myself supremely satisfied. The ending is the right one. Somewhat unexpected, somewhat daring, but also very well done. I knew that whatever else happened—whatever mistakes I made—at least this ending would be there, as Robert Jordan intended. We've put it in almost untouched, with just a few edits here and there at Harriet's direction.
You're going to love it.
A lot of people are asking what it feels like to be done. That's an odd question to consider for a couple of reasons. In some ways, the Wheel of Time was "done" for me when I read Robert Jordan's last scene back in 2007. The work wasn't done, of course, and I had a very long road ahead of me. And yet, I'd read the ending. We managed to get it into the final book virtually unchanged, with only a few minor tweaks here and there. The sequence (it is more than one scene) that I am referring to most of the time when I talk about this encompasses the entire epilogue of A Memory of Light. Once you get there, you can know you're reading Robert Jordan's words, though of course there are other scenes scattered through the book that he worked on too.
So that was one ending, for me. Another came in January of last year, when I finished the rough draft of this book. Still, there was a great deal of work to do, but I was "done" after a fashion. From there, I transitioned from writing a new Wheel of Time book to doing revisions—and for the last time ever.
Another ending came for me when I handed the book over to Maria from Team Jordan to handle all of the final tweaks from the proofreads and copyedits. That happened late last summer, and with some regret, I stepped away from the Wheel of Time. Like a parent (though a step-parent in this case) waving farewell to a child as they leave the home, I no longer had responsibility for this book in the same way. I was done.
And yet, I wasn't. This month and next I'll be touring for the Wheel of Time. That will probably be the final ending, seeing all of you and sharing in your mixed joy and regret at the finale of this series. Over twenty-three years ago now, I picked up The Eye of the World for the first time, and my life changed. A lot of you have similar stories.
I know how you feel. I've been feeling it for five years now, ever since I read that last scene. There is no glossary in this last Wheel of Time book. We wanted to leave you with the memory of that scene, as Robert Jordan wrote it, for your final impression of the Wheel of Time.
I'm happy I can finally share that scene with you. After five years of waiting, I can talk about it with others and reminisce without having to worry about what I'm spoiling. I hope to chat with as many of you as possible in the upcoming months. For those who can't make it, I'll post some responses to frequently asked questions below.
May you always find water and shade.
January 8th, 2013
What were you thinking when you wrapped up the final chapter of the book?
I felt like a person who had just run a mental marathon. I was tired, I was satisfied, I was excited, and I was saddened. That was five years of my life writing, and twenty-something years of my life reading and working on it. It was really bittersweet. But you have to remember that that was tempered for me, because the ending that Robert Jordan had written—I had read that years ago. So in a lot of ways the series was already finished to me, and had been finished since 2007 when I read the ending.
That last chapter was his chapter. There were only minor tweaks that I put in; there's one scene that I added from a certain character's viewpoint. But basically, that whole ending sequence, the last chapter, and the epilogue, are Robert Jordan's. So it was more a matter of finally putting it in with the rest of the book. Now, it's finally done. The capstone that was finished five, six years ago can finally be slipped into place and the book can be complete. So all of those emotions were mixed together.
How extensive were the notes that you had to work with? Were all of the plot lines tied off, or did you have to find conclusions on your own for some of them?
Since Robert Jordan wrote the last scene, that actually made this whole project mountains easier. I had a target to shoot at. While I didn't have a ton of written material from Robert Jordan that I could actually put in—there were about 200 pages worth of scenes and notes that needed to become somewhere around 2,500 pages—a lot of those 200 pages were summaries of scenes he wanted. Robert Jordan wrote by instinct.
He was what we call a discovery writer, so what was handed to me was a big pile of half-finished scenes or paragraphs where he wrote, 'Well, I am either going to do this, this, or this. I was thinking of this, but it could be this.' Yes, cracking an ending is hard, and Wheel of Time had a lot of loose threads. My job was to take all those threads and weave them into an ending, which was a real challenge.
Are we going to be happy with the end of A Memory of Light?
The ending was written by Robert Jordan, and as a reader I found it extremely satisfying when I reached it. And so I feel very confident that the ending of the book is going to be what everyone has been hoping for and wanting—without being exactly what they expect. I think the ending that Robert Jordan wrote is just wonderful.
Robert Jordan's epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time, launched in 1990, quickly became one of the most popular series in the history of fantasy, though as the story continued year after year, swelling into many mammoth volumes, some fans wondered if the tale would ever be finished, especially after Jordan's death in 2007. But this month sees the release of A Memory of Light, the 14th and final volume, completed by author Brandon Sanderson, working off Jordan's notes.
"The last thing that Robert Jordan wrote is the last chapter of this book," says Brandon Sanderson in this week's episode of the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast. "I felt when I first read it that it was a satisfying ending. I felt it was the right ending. It's been my guidepost for all the work I've done on this."
There was some discussion about Brandon's suggestion that RJ wrote the entire epilogue, since we knew from his tweets while he was working on it that he had to modify the epilogue material, and we knew from Peter that Brandon wrote the Cadsuane scene (and possibly others; this has never been clarified). In the comments on this post on Facebook, Isabel asked some questions and got some answers from Peter. The last quote is from Dragonmount, in response to some fan assumptions about how much had been written by RJ.
One question: regarding the Cadsuane scene. It is said that this was added by you. Is that correct? Was Cadsuane's fate in RJ's notes?
Team Jordan said I could say that Brandon himself wrote the words of that little scene. Brandon is still being closedmouthed about what specifically came from the notes, but in general, Robert Jordan left quite a few notes on where people ended up at the end of the book.
Am I right to assume that her implied fate wouldn't have been put in, if the notes say something different? (assuming there were notes on it)
The notes about fates at the end were not contradicted.
What Brandon was given from RJ specifically on the last three books was 200 manuscript pages containing some finished scenes (including the final scene) and some summaries of other scenes, some lines of dialogue here and there, some "I might do this, or I might do this," etc. It's definitely not the last 120 pages of the book.
I will do a blog post soon about this and similar questions. However, I can't answer much because I don't know much.
He did not explain much about the epilogue, even in the notes.
How much was already completed when you took over the series?
Brandon referred to what Tom Doherty had previously said on the issue. He said there were about 200 pages when he took over. Also, the Epilogue in A Memory of Light was almost entirely written by Jordan with Brandon trying to bring everything else to that point.
Fortunately I can fall back on Tom Doherty, who answered this question, so I don't get in trouble. And I don't usually—I get in trouble a little bit sometimes. [laughter] There are certain things that I have to be careful not to say, to get into spoilers and things like that, but Tom Doherty did answer this. There were about 200 pages of material that was done, and that did include lots of different things. It included completed scenes; it included dictations that he'd done while he was sick; and it included fragments of scenes, and in some places, some Q&As with Maria and Alan, where they would say "You said this about a character; can you go more in depth on that?" And then there's like a page of him talking about that character and that scene, and those 200 pages were given to me, and I have used that as a guide in writing the books.
There were holes. There were some very big holes, which actually was exciting to me in some ways, because it allowed me to actually be part of this, rather than following a very strict "This happens, this happens, this happens." In fact, they weren't in order, which was also exciting to me, because I work from an outline, and Robert Jordan didn't. Robert Jordan knew where he was going, but he would often discover what was going on as he got the characters there. They call that a 'gardener'; it's George R.R. Martin's term for writing; it's how George R.R. Martin; it's how Robert Jordan wrote books; it's how Stephen King writes books. There are others of us that, we are more 'architects'; we build a structure, and then we work from that, and I was able to take all of these things and build a structure from it, and one of the gems in there was what is now the epilogue of the book you're holding, which was finished almost in its entirety—that whole sequence, with very minor tweaks by us—and that ending is the last scene that Robert Jordan talked about many times, that he knows how the book ends; he knows how the series ends. He did write that before he passed away, and that became like my goalpost; that was the thing I had to hit, was that scene, and everything leading up to that was to make that scene work. And so, when you get there, you can read...that epilogue is all Robert Jordan. Significant chunks of the rest of the books were too, but that one, you can just use as a marker, and say "Okay, this is his ending."
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]
I put it in as RJ instructed, and I know nothing more about it than fandom does, I'm afraid.
Popular theory is that from his time with the Dark One/Creator/Pattern, he's able to manipulate The Pattern a bit.
This is a good theory.
What's your opinion on how pipe lighting was or could have been done even if we don't have RJ's answer?
Ha. I agree with some of the fan discussions.
Is Rand the missing link between the Pattern and the Creator himself, possibly even the balancer of light/dark?
That's one possible theory.
How did Rand light the pipe at the end of A Memory of Light?
I know no more on this than fandom does, I'm afraid. RJ did not explain.
I still can't figure it out...how did Rand light his pipe? Is he in Tel'aran'rhioid? Is everybody??
Can you explain how Rand lit his pipe in the last scene? Did he discover a new power? Is he a new power?
I'm afraid I don't know anything more than fandom does about this. RJ did not leave notes on the matter.
RJ always said he could have written the scene in 1984, but he didn't actually write it until he was working on A Memory of Light.
Robert Jordan wrote the entire epilogue.
Almost all. There were a few small inserts by me. Perrin was mine in the epilogue.
I would like to know, how much of the last chapter was written by RJ and how much did you do?
I did Perrin and some of the in-between writing with Loial. RJ did Mat, Rand, scene exiting the mountain, and others.
There are places where I tweaked bits, per editing, and places where I slipped in things he'd written to my sequences.
Was the last scene written or dictated?
Written down. As was the scene with Isam [in] the prologue.
The Borderlander tower scene was dictated, I believe.
There are far more reasons, worldbuilding wise, to believe it was real than to believe it was illusion.
Is Rand's soul in Moridin's body?
Ha. Right to the point, are you? Let's just say that trickery is not likely in this case.
Can you confirm that Rand's body was burned at the end of A Memory of Light?
Okay, fine. Yes, I will confirm that Rand's body was indeed the one that was burned. :)
Why didn't anybody notice when a supposedly-dead Moridin got up and walked away?
I'd say coincidence. But there aren't many of those in the WoT world.
Seems like a conversation between the Creator and Rand was missing where "switch" and Alivia's role in it are laid out—thoughts?
I believe that RJ included everything he wanted in this sequence.
Why did Rand switch bodies at the end and why is he going incognito now? Did not understand that part.
RJ wrote these scenes, and intended to leave them as is. I don't think me delving into explanations is what he'd want.
Did the bonding between Rand, Nynaeve, Elayne, and Min transfer over to the new body?
Yes, though I don't know how or why.
Why did the bond survive the body switch at the end of A Memory of Light?
I don't know. RJ did not explain this one to me.
How were Rand/Elan able to switch bodies?
How did Rand wind up with Moridin's body?
Could you explain further about the body switch and how it was possible?
This is one that I'm not answering, I'm afraid. RJ wanted some things about the ending to remain ambiguous.
Describe for me the process. Tell me about how Robert Jordan worked on the books in the last few months of his life.
Mostly by dictation. He began by saying something about the last book one Saturday night. And two friends were visiting us at the time—one who very luckily had worked in her past as a court reporter—so she began taking copious notes. I tried, but I was just staring at my darling and listening to the story pour out of him—I was no go at taking the dictation. She was, although she thought the hero that he was talking about was the 'Dragoon Reborn'. (laughs) Dragoons are big in Charleston history. And she took very good notes, and the other friend went out at midnight to buy a tape recorder. So from there on we were just recording him and going back with questions, and that's how he worked in those last months.
And I understand that he—the last scene, which I think you're referring to—he wrote that completely himself?
Did he have that in mind the whole time? Because I have to tell you, when I got the book in the mail last week, I turned to the end and read the last scene. I'm that kind of person.
(laughs) Yeah, I think he had it in mind the whole time—from before he started The Eye of the World. He thought very far ahead. I remember once we went out to lunch just after he'd finished The Eye of the World, and over lunch he wanted to talk about what would happen to a Maiden of the Spear who had a child. And that doesn't turn up until where? Book four?
I don't think so, yeah.
But he worked far ahead. And he did have the overall arc of the story in mind all the time—think of the prophecies.
That's true, yeah.
Speaking of adaptations, of course, you've taken over Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series and sped up the pace of the story considerably, so as a long-time reader there, thank you for that!
Credit needs to be given to Robert Jordan; he started to speed up in Book 11 [Knife of Dreams]. In fact, I've read interviews where he admits that the focus was a little bit wrong in Book 10 [Crossroads of Twilight], which is the one that the fans complain about being the most slow, and he himself changed that for Book 11 and picked up the pacing. And I like spectacular endings. When I build my books, I start from the end and work forward with my outline. I write from beginning to end, but I outline end to beginning, because I always want to know that I have a powerful, explosive ending that I'm working toward. Endings are my deal: if a book or a film doesn't have a great ending, I find it wanting. It's like the last bite, the last morsel on the plate, so I get very annoyed with the standard Hollywood third act, because they seem to play it most safe in Act Three, and that's where I most want to be surprised and awed. That's where it's got to be spectacular. You've got to give the reader something they're not expecting, something they want but don't know it, in that last section.
Does that go for something like your Mistborn Trilogy; did you start with the end of the trilogy or go book-by-book?
I plotted all three backwards and then wrote them all forwards. I had a great advantage writing those books, because I sold my first book, Elantris, in 2003. The nature of how books are 'slotted' into release dates is that a new author doesn't get the best slot. They want to give each author a good launch, but they can't give them in the really prime slots. So we had a two-and-a-half year wait, and usually you have a year between books. That meant I had three-and-a-half years before Mistborn would be out, so I pitched the entire trilogy together and wrote all three before the first one came out.
Is that something you have in common with Robert Jordan, because re-reading the prologue to the first book you think, 'This guy knows how it's going to end'.
He actually wrote the ending that I worked towards. The last pages were written by him before he passed away. He always spoke of knowing the ending, so I think we do share that. He was a bit more of an explorer in his writing than I am. He knew where he was going, but getting there he wove around a lot. You can see that in the notes I've been given; he jumps from scene to scene. So there's a difference there, but he really loved endings. And that ending is really great; I think fans are going to love it.
Well, you've got so many things to tie up. And Robert Jordan, he knew that he was going to die. He knew that, and so he was writing as fast as he could. He got these notes. And you're working off of these notes, which is so great for the fan base, 'cause we get a feel for what Robert Jordan had in mind. I do have one question that everyone is asking me to ask you. [laughs] Are we going to find out who killed Asmodean?
Yes. He left notes about who killed Asmodean. To be included in the book. Harriet's decided where it goes. I can't tell you which of the three books it's going to appear in. But it is going to be in there and he did write the ending himself, of the entire thing.
Which is just wonderful. It makes this book possible because I know what the ending is. He left a lot of material through the middle too, as well. But he left that ending. He'd been promising us for years that he knew the ending of the series. And he did. And he wrote it down. And so I'm really working towards the goal of getting to that ending and working with it in mind and so, yeah, you don't need to worry that the ending won’t be Robert Jordan's ending, because he wrote that himself.
That is great to know. I didn't know that. Well, that is awesome.
"That was exactly as Jim wrote it."
"He wanted to leave you feeling that the next Age will be even stranger than the last."
I asked if Rand now had some powers of the Creator & she again reiterated (maybe clarified?) that the next Age will be profoundly different.
So I then asked if that ability is going to be exclusively Rand's & she spread her hands to give me a look that said "maybe, maybe not".
The vibe I got from her is that she didn't really know what her husband meant for that to mean and she didn't want to say one way or another, but that is just my opinion so take it for what it's worth.
I asked Sanderson if we'll ever find out how Rand lit the pipe in the epilogue.
He said that nowhere in Jordan's notes did it say how the pipe was lit, but that Harriet had a couple of theories, the main one being: with it being a new Age, there's a new way of doing things, and even some new magic.
When asked about the ending he said he thought Robert Jordan left it open so the reader could fill in what happened for themselves. Then he said that he thought Rand probably did go talk to Tam before he left but maybe not Lan.
Loial is my favorite character in the series. Are his scenes in A Memory of Light written more by Brandon Sanderson or by Robert Jordan?
Brandon replies by saying he will need to keep this vague due to not wanting to reveal spoilers to those who have not finished reading. He will answer this individually when the person comes up to him in line. He is against readers "looking" for him or for Robert Jordan in the books. The epilogue was entirely written by Robert Jordan, except for one portion that Brandon wrote.
Sanderson almost didn't take on the role. Not for lack of interest; rather, because he was too much of a fan.
"That was actually a consideration in this for me," he says. "I would not be able to read a Wheel of Time book when everyone else got to.
"I balanced it with the knowledge that I got to go and read the ending he wrote. Because he did write the last chapter of the series himself before he passed away.
"I got to read that basically before anyone else except for his wife and his assistants. Getting to read it a few years early was a pretty big advantage."
This is the last stop of the tour for Memory of Light. How do you feel?
How do we feel? The last hurrah, the last stop on the Memory of Light tour. It's really kind of, honestly, a weird experience for me, because after today, I basically set down, you know, the mantle, right, that was handed to me five years ago. This is my last official event involved in the Wheel of Time.
Now I will be involved for the rest of my life. I will go to JordanCon every year, which is only over in Atlanta, so you should all go. I just drove there today, from Atlanta, I know how easy a drive it is. I will be going to JordanCon, I will always be willing to sign these books, and talk about the Wheel of Time, but after today I take a big step toward fan, and away from author.
And so it's a really . . . It's the culmination of a bittersweet experience, it has been five years of bitter-sweetness. It started with reading his last scene, that he'd written, and it comes up to here. Where after five years of a lot of hard work, I put down that burden and, I move on to other things, which is really, really sad. You know, it's kind of weird, because every other series that I put down, there's been that voice in the back of my head that said, well you could return to this, if you want to. In this one I can't.
That's been made off limits to me by myself from the beginning. You know, Harriet and I, on one of the very first times in Charleston, we had this conversation about the other books and we both were very adamant about the idea of them not happening. And so, it's not, you know, it's not Harriet saying, no, it's me saying no too. I would not do these if the opportunity were even offered. And so, it's strange, because these characters I can never do more with. Everyone else I can. So it's a final farewell to Robert Jordan, and it's sad, but it's also awesome because the last book has been well received. I think it turned out very well. And the experience has been amazing.
When rand lights the pipe at the end, is he directly influencing the Pattern?
RJ didn't tell us. He wrote that scene himself, and he didn't say what it meant. I think that's what it is, but I can't say for sure, because RJ didn't tell me.
And I . . . I tell this story a lot, but it's a fun story. I flew in. Harriet herself picked me up at the airport. I had been really nervous to meet Harriet—like, you know, really nervous. I knew Harriet . . . like, she was one of the big editors in the field, and authors have this kind of—even, you know, published authors—are sometimes kind of scared of editors, right? And Harriet . . . I don't know if you guys know . . . I mean, she edited Ender's Game, okay? She edited—and discovered—Robert Jordan, and she's behind the two biggest books in fantasy and science fiction of the last 30 years—Ender's Game and Eye of the World. So I was really nervous.
And so I'm like . . . and then I meet her, and as you can tell, she's like this wonderful, just so nice, awesome person. It was such a relief. I'm like, oh good. I actually called Emily that night and I'm like, ahh, I didn't need to be worried. Like, take your favorite grandmother and mix her with a southern gentlewoman and you have Harriet.
I've hidden the whips.
And she drove me to the house there in Charleston, which is this wonderful house, built in the 1700s, right?
And we walk in the door, and Harriet had been cooking dinner, and it was a bean soup. I still remember all these things where she said, well I put some soup on, and I can warm it up, and would you like to have some food? And I said, I would like the ending, please.
Because I didn't know . . . You know, I just signed the contracts without knowing. You know, you guys work for Microsoft, NDA stuff, you got to say yes first, and then you get the NDA, and then you get to be a part of it.
And so, I knew that there was an ending, because Robert Jordan had talked about writing the ending. I knew, and Harriet had confirmed, the ending had been written. And so I walked in, and it was like ten o'clock at night. But I got that ending, and I sat down in the front room—sitting room—and I read what you now have as primarily the epilogue of A Memory of Light. Almost all the epilogue was in there.
Also contained in there were several big important scenes from the prologue, which we split among the three prologues. There were a couple of the really cool scenes in there. There was the Tower of Ghenjei. There was a place where Egwene gets a special visitor, and—I think it's called A Cup of Tea—that scene, but really it was the ending that I wanted to read.
And there's the blank in the blank.
There's the blank in the blank, yes, which is in the prologue of A Memory of Light—one of the prologue sequences. And I read all of this and read his ending, which you now have in your hands.
And Harriet afterwards—she said, well what do you think? And I said, it was satisfying. That was my word for it. It was the right ending. I felt a huge sense of relief. In a lot of ways, there wasn't a lot there. There were 200 pages, and so it wasn't huge. But at the same time, it was a huge relief to me, because the ending had been done, and it had been done right. And my job, then, was not so impossible, because all I had to do was get from well-written book to well-written ending without screwing it up too much.
And having that ending in hand is really what has made this possible, and made me able to work on these books in a way that I really feel conformed to Robert Jordan's vision for them, because I knew where he was going. And I tend to work from an ending—that's how I write my books, is I always have the ending in mind first. And so, that is the story of how you came to get A Memory of Light. And it has been an awesome and daunting and horrifying and extremely hard and wonderful experience all in one.
All right, and second question. Without being too terribly spoilerific, what's the one thing you wanted to find out, and didn't?
There is an event in the epilogue, that one of the characters performed something that seems impossible by our understanding, and Robert Jordan did not explain how or why.
That's fair. All right. I’ve got my own fan theories, and they'll just stay there. Thanks.
I actually do have a spoiler question, and I don't know . . .
Okay, why don't you save that till afterward and come ask us.
Okay. But I do want to say that your answer to his question there makes a whole lot more sense now—that you didn't know that . . .
I do not know either.
Nope, sorry. When I say he wrote the epilogue, he wrote the epilogue. And he left notes on a lot of things, but he didn't leave notes on the things he'd already finished, because we didn't need to know how to write those.
Hey Brandon! I'm the redheaded dude who was helping at the last two Midnight Release parties, and I am actually at BYU right now. I have two questions:
I know you've said you can't answer these directly, so, rather than give the "official" answer, I was wondering if you could give us your "fan theory" on the answer, as if you weren't the writer.
What do you think about Mat, Rand, and Perrin keeping certain "abilities"? I know you've said that they may or may not still be ta'veren, and Perrin thinks they aren't, but can Perrin still talk to wolves? Is Mat still lucky? Does Mat still have his memories?
In your opinion, who do you think Nakomi was? Do you like the "Nakomi is the avatar of the Creator theory"? Do you think of her as the third member of the Christian godhead?
Finally, Harriet was quoted as saying that she thinks Rand's special ability at the end was a "new magic"? Do you agree? Or do you think it is something else?
Thanks for being awesome!
1. Perrin can still talk to wolves. That is certain. Also, Mat keeps his memories. These two are official, not theories on my part. What I can't give official on is the ta'veren-ness of the guys. I don't think RJ ever even says in the notes. Me? I think they aren't.
2. I'm too close to this one. I can't say, unfortunately. I can answer as a fan for things I don't know because it's not in the notes, or for things I could theorize about before I came onto the project. For things I learned about while working, I don't have a "fan" perspective, only a writer perspective. Sorry.
3. Harriet is more likely to be right than I am, but I don't believe it is a new magic. I think it is a result of Rand touching the Pattern directly.
Awesome! So, I'm still unsure about Mat's luck. Would you say that's part of his "ta'veren-ness?"
Thanks for the great answers. I'm more at peace now with some of the previous answers you've given.
My gut tells me Mat still has his luck, but not to the extent he once had. But I have no foundation for this in the notes.
The only other thing we asked him was about a certain lighting of a pipe.
He said that he has no idea what the ending with Rand lightning the pipe truly meant. That was completely RJ. I asked him, based on my own theory, that what Rand did was a by product of him being almost a convergence of the Pattern. Since he wove with all three powers and wove the whole of the Age lace that he was now able to bend the Pattern and essentially "weave reality." Which would be more far helpful than the One Power. It may also explain why he's burnt out and not going crazy because of, he has a far better substation.
Pops! Forgot to add! Brandon said he doesn't know for sure but, that is close to his own theory. And they ARE releasing the complete encyclopedia on the series. He estimates by sometime next year.
At what point did Rand begin planning his fake death? At least in Towers of Midnight or in A Memory of Light timeline?
He never planned to. It was a matter of opportunity.
I wondered particularly about, in the epilogue, Alivia leaving the supplies for the body-swapped Rand. I honestly had to go look up Alivia as a refresher upon seeing her name; was she included from Robert Jordan's draft, and if so, do you think he envisioned more involvement from her throughout A Memory of Light?
That scene was indeed one of the ones that Robert Jordan wrote before he passed away, and was include as is. He MIGHT have included her a tad more in other scenes, but the notes were blank on her save for this last scene, so I don't know. I know for certain that her helping Rand to die meant only leaving the items for him. It was a very small thing that fandom (perhaps by RJ's design) blew up into something much larger. The characters did too, to an extent.
Hey Brandon once upon a time you posted Final Fantasy X song "To Zarkanad" on your Facebook page and said it was perfect for the scene you were writing in A Memory of Light, so tell me if you remember which scene was that?
It was the last few scenes I was working on, Perrin after the Last Battle and a few of the Loial sequences in the epilogue, which were parts I had a hand in writing as opposed to putting in what RJ had written.
As I've said before, I signed the contracts with Harriet to finish this series before I was given the notes. Therefore, going into this, I knew very little of what had been done for A Memory of Light already. In fact, the only thing I did know was that Mr. Jordan had written down the ending—the one he'd been promising for years that he had in his head. (Though, being the gardener-type writer that he was, he always noted that the ending could change shape as his view of it evolved over time.)
Eager, daunted, I flew to Charleston in December 2007 to meet Harriet. I knew her by reputation only—the editorial director of Tor Books during its foundational years, the woman who edited Ender's Game and who discovered Robert Jordan. I was rather intimidated. Turns out, Harriet is quite grandmotherly—in a southern gentlewoman sort of way. She's confident, capable, and has this air of knowledge about her. However, she's also kind, quick with a smile, and remarkably genuine. I don't know that I've ever met someone who so effortlessly blends self-confidence with compassion.
Once I arrived at Harriet's house, I asked for the ending, which she gave me. I spent hours picking through the notes and reading—I was at it after Harriet retired for the night, though before she left, she pointed to the computer in the front room where I was sitting. "That's Robert Jordan's," she noted to me. "That's where he wrote many of the books, on that computer, that keyboard. We recently moved it in from the office into this room."