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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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Absolutely not. I never intended anyone to think he could.
Jordan also strongly implied that Thom was not Elayne's father. Oh, well, so much for all our beautiful net.theories based on those two facts.
When Fades use their swords, we often see blue flashes when the Fade blade hits another weapon. Is this an interaction between the Fade blade and a specific sort of weapon (such as other Fade blades, or Aes Sedai-forged swords), or an interaction between the Fade blade and any iron, or is it just a special effect with no special basis?
Both answers on the chat are RIGHT!!!! He knows exactly how Thom managed to escape with only a limp and how he managed to survive that. But he might use it in the next book and doesn't want to give away anything. So we have to do it with the knowledge that both answers, although seemingly conflicting, are both CORRECT.
When a soul is reborn, at what point does it enter the body?
Hmm… *think, think* I’d have to say as a fetus. When the body becomes capable of sustaining life.
*stupid grin* Ok. In The Eye of the World, Thom said that the dead can take over a living body. If this happened, what would happen to the original soul?
*gave me a “haha, nice try you stupid monkey” grin* “Read and find out.”
YAAAAAAAAAAAARG! DAMN YOU! (ok, not really)
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.
I debated writing this because you seem like a genuinely nice guy who cares about his fans, and I don't want to hurt your feelings. If you find it difficult to read criticism, please don't read any further.
To be honest, I am hoping that you won't write the outriggers/prequels because it seems to me like your heart's just not in it anymore. In 2011 you announced that you needed time off to reread the entire series before starting work on A Memory of Light since you'd forgotten too much and this had led to continuity issues in Towers of Midnight. But according to your own website, you only reread a third of the series, then went on to work on Alloy of Law, Legion, The Emperor's Soul, The Rithmatist... As someone who enjoyed Way of Kings a great deal, I'm glad that you've continued to work on your own books, but the fact that you abandoned the reread does make me worry about the quality of A Memory of Light. If you cannot give WoT as much time and attention as it needs, it's better to let it go.
Another big issue for me is the characterization. You're great at writing Perrin and also did a good job with Rand and the girls for the most part. Others felt off, and that unfortunately includes the main characters the outriggers and prequels would focus on. I'll leave out Mat since that's been discussed to death already, but Lan and Moiraine's scenes in Towers of Midnight were a huge disappointment for me. Lan has always been a favorite of mine, but here he came off as a whiny combination of Gawyn and Perrin. He's a grown man in his late 40s, not a sulky teenager.
Then there's Moiraine, now ready to give up all her power if only Thom tells her to. Yes, her captivity undoubtedly changed her, but at her core, she is someone who was ready to sacrifice everyone and everything to win the Last Battle, including herself. So it didn't seem right for Moiraine to offer to give up an important tool like the angreal.
""Egwene, I know what you feel for Rand, but you must realize by now that nothing can come of it. He belongs to the Pattern, and to history."—Moiraine, The Shadow Rising
For an instant she regretted sending Thom away. She did not like having to waste her time with these petty affairs. But he had too much influence with Rand; the boy had to depend on her counsel. Hers, and hers alone.—Moiraine, The Shadow Rising
That had been one of Moiraine's more succinct bits of advice. Never let them see you weaken.—Rand, Lord of Chaos
I happen to like Moiraine a lot, but there's no denying she was partly responsible for Rand thinking he needed to be hard. Yet in Towers of Midnight you have Rand speak of how caring she was; even Mat and Nynaeve sing her praises. You seem to be trying to retcon Moiraine into a saintly figure she never was. All WoT characters have major flaws; Moiraine's was that she treated people as chess pieces that sometimes needed to be sacrificed for the greater good. In The Shadow Rising she intentionally tried to separate Rand from his friends so she could be the only person influencing him. It wasn't until Rhuidean that she discovered firsthand what it felt like to be the person forced to make the ultimate sacrifice, and she finally became the advisor Rand needed. But even then she was still manipulating him and encouraging him to be hard, so obviously she hadn't changed completely. To ignore her flaws and mistakes is to do the character a disservice and hides her growth in The Fires of Heaven.
This is getting long, so I'll wrap it up here. I hope this made sense and that I didn't hurt your feelings. I still think you're a very talented writer and look forward to reading both A Memory of Light and the next Stormlight book.
Well, thanks for the thoughts. I will take the comments for what they are worth, and appreciate your sincerity.
By way of correction, I do want to point out that Alloy of Law, Legion, and The Rithmatist were all written BEFORE I started work on A Memory of Light. The only thing I've written during A Memory of Light was The Emperor's Soul, which is a short work I wrote on the flight home from Taiwan earlier in the year. I have always stopped my main projects for side ones. It is part of what keeps me fresh. Alcatraz was in the middle of Mistborn, Rithmatist in the middle of Liar of Partinel (which I decided not to publish; it was the last book I wrote before the WoT came my way.) Legion was during Towers of Midnight. Emperor's Soul during A Memory of Light.
My heart is completely in it—that I can assure you. I stopped the re-read because I was just too eager to be working on the book, and I'd already re-read (the last year) books 9-11 in working to get Perrin and Mat down for Towers of Midnight. But your complaint is valid. I did not re-read 6-8, except for spot reading. I kept telling myself I needed to get to them, but I was too deeply into the writing by that point.
As for where I misfired on characterization, I apologize. In some cases, I don't see them the same way as you do. In other cases, I am doing a worse job than RJ would have, and the failings are mine. I don't want to diminish your opinion, as it is valid. I certainly have struggled with some characters more than others.
Though, for the scene with Moiraine and Thom you quote above...I, uh, didn't write that scene, my friend. That one was RJ in its entirety, and was one of the most complete scenes he left behind.
Brandon, thank you for the thoughtful response. I understand that it's very difficult for most authors to read criticism (let alone reply to it), so I appreciate that you took the time to read and reply.
I'd like to stress that I wholeheartedly agree with Neil Gaiman's "GRRM is not your bitch" post and hope it didn't come across like I thought you shouldn't be working on anything besides WoT. Side projects are very much a good thing (happy and creative authors→better books), and I am personally excited about your upcoming books. It was mainly the fact that you seemed to have given up on the reread that felt like a reason for concern since you had previously said you needed to refresh your memory to avoid a repeat of Towers of Midnight's continuity errors. It also made me worry that you had gotten weary of working on A Memory of Light, which would have been understandable given that it's a very time-consuming and demanding project that you've already spent 4-5 years on. I'm glad to hear this is not the case.
"In some cases, I don't see them the same way as you do."
That's not something I object to since we all have different perceptions of the characters. In most cases I understand where you are coming from even if your interpretation differs somewhat from mine. Unlike me, you also have access to all sorts of character notes and spoilers about their futures.
However, in some cases it felt like your personal love or dislike of certain characters also played a strong role. To put it bluntly, it's easy to tell that Perrin, Egwene and Moiraine are your favorites since they've received a disproportionate amount of PoVs or praise from other characters, Egwene in particular (how many scenes do we need where people talk about how brilliant, clever and talented Egwene is?). I don't know how much you follow other WoT boards, but there's been a lot of debate in fandom as to whether Egwene has become too much of a Mary Sue-type character who easily defeats supposedly shrewd political opponents and is constantly praised by other characters, often at the expense of people like Siuan. It's impossible for a writer to remain completely objective, and your background as a fan is on the whole one of your biggest strengths, but sometimes things like that can feel jarring. I would not want to see the same happen to a complex, flawed and interesting character like Moiraine.
"Though, for the scene with Moiraine and Thom you quote above...I, uh, didn't write that scene, my friend. That one was RJ in its entirety, and was one of the most complete scenes he left behind."
I have to admit, this comes as a surprise to me, partly because of Moiraine's seemingly uncharacteristic offer to surrender almost all her power for Thom's sake and partly because she used contractions in this scene (in the New Spring graphic novel, there's a note from Jordan informing the comic writers that Moiraine never uses contractions). She and Thom seemed to have a mutual respect and attraction in the early books, but spent very little time together, so I would not have expected any full-blown love or a marriage proposal at this point. It just seemed very strange for Moiraine to be willing to sacrifice her only chance at regaining her strength when she's barely even thought about Thom in her PoVs before. But since Jordan wrote that scene, there's nothing to do but accept that it's where he wanted to take the characters.
Re: Contractions Interesting story here. Harriet and Team Jordan worried about my use of contractions in places that RJ did not. It seemed very striking to them. Their first instinct was to go through and change it, after the fact, in order to match RJ's style.
Harriet didn't like how that looked. She felt that my style needed to be blended with RJ's, rather than taking my style and forcing it to fit into something else. So it was decided that one of her tasks, as editor, would be to blend the writing after it was put together. She'd go through and make scenes feel right together, and would blend the two styles like a painter blending paint.
So, she takes away contractions from me where she feels they need to go and she actually adds them to RJ's writing where she thinks it needs to be blended. I was curious if that was the case here, so I went back to the original notes.
And it turns out RJ wrote the scene with contractions. Most likely, he was planning to trim them out with editing. Remember, even the most complete scenes we have from him are first drafts. In fact, in some of them, the tense is wrong. (Much of this Moiraine/Thom/Mat scene is in present tense. )
An example from the notes is:
He puts the angreal on her wrist, and says 'I'll marry you now.'
In revision, this line turned into:
He put the bracelet back on her wrist. "I'll marry you now, if you wish it."
Anyway, I don't want to spend too much time defending myself, because that's not the point of your post. Really, the most important thing for me to say is that I understand. I'll do my best, and criticism like this is important to me. (Particularly on the Wheel of Time books, where I feel that listening to fan direction is important for gauging how well I'm doing on the characters.) It was fan criticism that brought me around to finally seeing what I was doing wrong with Mat, and (hopefully) making some strides toward writing him more accurate to himself.
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.
I once wrote a poem about writer's block. I was reminded of it when I the last scene of chapter 44... @BrandSanderson https://twitter.com/BrandSanderson/status/106123521532493824
I would love to see the poem. And it sure was nice to have Thom around to help with inspiration.
Thom's chapter viewpoint in Memory of Light, hands down for me, was my favorite. Beautifully written.
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.
I received a reply from Maria Simons regarding one of my previous questions:
I'm sorry to be so long in answering; it's been a busy week. But the answer to your question is that she (Moiraine) knew the face of her husband from a viewing of Min's.
For the record, I can only imagine how her schedule has gone since the AMoL release, and with Harriet joining in on the tour, so I don't consider a couple of days as long to respond at all. Like everyone else associated with The Wheel of Time, she rocks. And a long-standing question finally confirmed!
At this point, Brandon started signing my books. I recorded the conversation while he was doing it, so from here on out it's transcribed. I always ask for something unique, but this time around bossman insisted the HCFFs should ask for a unique personalization—probably because Brandalization kind of decreases the value of signed books!—so Brandon took it as a matter of course. I asked for Zombie's infamous love pentagram.
....you have to draw a pentagram....and then, you know, you can start with Moiraine on one tip, and then just follow it around, right?
Uh-huh. Okay, yeah, that is...I do remember that. Okay. So.... (draws two lines) Can I even draw a pentagram?
Now, they go up to the middle...
Yeah, now they go up like this...
...like that, and then across.
(laughs) Yes. It's perfect.
And then Thom...
No, nonononono! Because, like, Moiraine connects to Thom here...
Oh, it goes like that! I see what it is...
Right, right. Yeah.
And then Thom connects to...
Is this like the hook-up quadrilateral?
It's a love pentagram. (laughs)
Okay, and then Morgase is not going to be Tallanvor....
Morgase is going to be Gareth Bryne, and then Bryne is going to be Siuan....
Oh, Siuan and Moiraine, pillow-friends! Right, yeah....
...and then Siuan comes back to Moiraine! Yeah!
Yeah, yeah, okay.
It works perfectly.
Yeah, the Wheel of Time is basically one big hook-up chain. (laughter)
Well, I thought this was special, cause it's like...it's not a love triangle; it's a love pentagram.
Yeah, okay. Again, sorry for my handwriting.
And then you have to draw a heart.
(draws heart and sparklies)
(laughs) That's great. Now for the questions!
Alright, now for the questions.
From Freelancer again. Moiraine promised Thom to tell the names of the Red Aes Sedai (who gentled) Owyn. Does she ever do that?
Yes. It's not onscreen but it does happen.
And is there anybody in that list that we would be interested in?
I actually asked that question to Maria, and Maria said no.
Really what I said is, "Do we want to do this, is this relevant?" She said, "No I don't think this is relevant, and it's not worth jumping through hoops."
Because there is nothing there that's going to, yeah.
That was what came of it. Now whether that actually means, is there any name you'd recognize, you might recognize a name, but it wasn't relevant enough to jump through storytelling hoops to get that on screen, to bother with it.
Right, that’s one of the most contentious name decisions that I’ve chosen. Before I tell you the answer, I will preface it by saying I don’t say the names right, in a lot of times. For instance I say “E-lawn-tris” like everyone else, but in world they say “Elayn-tris” because of the system of language that’s been built. I say “Kel-seer” and they say “Kel-see-ay,” in-world. And so I’m American and I use my pronunciations I say “Say-zed”.
However, that may not be the way they actually say it. And beyond that, every reader of a book has the ability to rewrite the book as they wish. A book doesn’t exist until you’ve read it. I write a script, I write- I get you hopefully seventy five percent of the way there but the last twenty-five percent is you, it’s participatory. And as you write, you create the images of them in your own imagination and that becomes the right interpretation for you. And you have line [inaudible] veto.
When I read Anne McCaffrey’s books the dragons are these unpronounceable things in my head that I could never actually because it’s just something a dragon can say. And it has very little relationship to the letters that are there on the page. I have a friend, who when he reads the Wheel of Time- the first time when Thom Merrilin shows up in the books, on screen, it says he has these big drooping moustaches. My friend said, “No he doesn’t.” And he cannot imagine Thom Merrilin with a moustache. To me, the moustache is an integral part of who Thom Merrilin is. It’s like him, he’s the moustached guy! Well, theres a couple other moustached guys but Thom’s the first moustached guy in the Wheel of Time! And so, you have the right to say it however you want.
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.