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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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My question for Brandon would be:
What kind of mental "retooling" does it take for him to work on an already established world/storyline like Wheel of Time since this is someone else's work?
Also, were there there a lot of notes or material left by Mr. Jordan to work from?
I thought about this quite a lot during the months when I was reading the Wheel of Time again straight through, trying to figure out how I would approach writing the final book. Obviously, this project wasn't going to be like anything I'd done before. I couldn't just approach it as I did one of my solo novels. And yet, it felt like trying to match Robert Jordan's style exactly would have made me lapse into parody.
A lot of the mental 'retooling' I did focused on getting inside the characters' heads. I decided that if I could make the characters sound right, the book would FEEL right, even if some of the writing itself was different. I also decided that I would adapt my style to fit the project. I became more descriptive, for one, and wrote viewpoint with the more intimate, in-head narrative style that Mr. Jordan used. Neither of these were attempts to match how he wrote exactly, but more me trying to match my style to The Wheel of Time, if that makes any sense.
In answer to the second question, he left LOTS of notes behind. He wrote complete scenes in places, dictated other scenes, left piles of notes and materials. The prologue was almost all completed by him (that will be split half in this book, half in the next.) The ending scenes were written by him as well. In the middle, there are a lot of scene outlines as well.
That's not to say there wasn't A LOT of work to do. The actual number of completed scenes was low, and in some places, there was no direction at all what to do. But his fingerprints are all over this novel. My goal was not to write a Brandon Sanderson book, but a Wheel of Time book. I want this novel (well, these three novels, now) to be his, not mine.
Other than that, my life has been rather serene lately. My job (so to speak) for these few weeks is to read books—and not just any books, but ones I have loved since I was a youth. That's rather remarkable to me still. It has been a very peaceful experience, though the stress of trying to finish a book that millions of people are waiting to read looms back there inside of me as well. Completing this work is going to be like no other project of which I've been a part. Always, writing and reading were similar—yet separated—activities for me. While writing, I am fully in "creation" mode. While reading, I'm in "experience" mode. Yet here, with the task of writing Book Twelve laid before me, creating and experiencing become muddled. For once, when I read a work and think "oh, I wish that this would happen" it is possible to MAKE it happen. However, I know that I must hold myself to the rigors of character and story, doing only what is functionally appropriate for the story. Still, there is hope. If I want a face-to-face meeting between certain characters, there is a chance that it will fit with the plot. If I wish for a certain world aspect to get a little more explanation, then there is opportunity for that.
This project is not 'mine' for it is much larger than me. And yet, I've always said that the strength of novels as an entertainment medium—as opposed to movies or other forms of expression—is that a novel can better reflect the vision of a single person. That can be good or it can be bad. However, in no other popular entertainment form can one person reasonably be in charge of every aspect and piece to the degree that one finds in novels. This leads to a completeness of vision in the medium, I think. My job in this case isn't to create that vision, but to 'catch' the same vision that Mr. Jordan had, then shepherd the final project so that it best reflects what he would have wished of the book. I feel that it's very important for the integrity of the book that it not have a schizophrenic vision—mine voice must blend with Mr. Jordan's, so that different passages will not fight with one another or stand out. The story comes first, the experience that the reader has.
So, I read and find myself saying "I wonder if I could make this particular thing happen?" That is followed with "is that what Mr. Jordan would do?" Finally, I come around to "What is best for the story?" And I think that last one stands the most tall.
Brandon told the story of his selection as the WoT-completing author.
He read a few pages from the opening of the Prologue (which he also emphatically stated was all Jordan's material, much of it word-for-word).
He described "The Materials", the variety of forms of notes, completed scenes, paragraphs, fragments, audio dictations, etc. that were collected by RJ's assistants after his passing and basically dumped in Brandon's lap. Daunting isn't in it.
But that's how I was reading him, and perhaps other people read him differently. And my particular biases on the character were manifest. Does that make sense? That's how I've always seen him.
But, one thing that I have to warn Wheel of Time readers... In me you get some interesting things writing the Wheel of Time book. What you get, which I hope is an advantage is someone who has read the books through multiple times, who's read The Eye of the World nine times, who is a very deep, big fan of the series. But what you're also getting hand-in-hand with that is someone who starting reading the Wheel of Time when he was fourteen...and on occasion has used his line edit privileges not for good.
Like, there are certain things that are embedded in my imagination that I have not realized until working on these books that I was wrong all along, one of which you may notice in The Gathering Storm was the length of the bridges into Tar Valon. Which, I had a conception of them, and I didn't look it up because I'm like, 'oh, I know what that looks like,' and so I started describing it and nobody called me on it, and then it comes out and fans are like, 'these are like a mile long, you can't really see the other side, you know, in the way you described it.' And I looked at it and then I read the Big White Book, I'm like, "Holy crap, these bridges are a mile long!" That's enormous! That's not how I imagined it at all. But that's how it is if you look at the maps.
These are some of these things where if I even had an inkling that it would be wrong, I would have questioned it. And in other cases, you'll get things like Talmanes, where I have always been reading him a certain way. And in my head, I'm like, this guy is way...you know, Mat's just not noticing the smirk that this man has in his eyes. That's how I've always read him, and so when I write him that comes out. Is that how Robert Jordan intended it? Well, I'll leave you to decide whether he had the line, 'he actually has a smirk inside,' or if it's just all along me reading him this way that makes me write him that way.
But does that give you some examples of understanding? This is one of the things, the issues we kind of slightly have to deal with me writing the Wheel of Time books is, you know, you can get some advantages. Mat, and Rand, and Perrin, and Egwene...these are my high school friends. I feel like I know these better than I know most of the friends I know in my life right now because I've known these people longer. Really, I mean, you know. You get that, and so hopefully their voices are very close to what Robert Jordan was writing them as, but you also get the preconceptions.
The first one you've already read. It occurs in The Gathering Storm, and it involves someone's backside. Which is not, you know, it's very appropriate to the Wheel of Time, but I don't generally write spankings into my books. And so, I actually said, "I have to write a spanking scene?!?" All right, make it the best spanking scene ever!
The other scene has not come up yet so I can't tell you what it is. It was just a "wow." It was kind of that, "How did I miss that?" in part, and also a "I really need to make this really work really well." And anyway, I can tell you about that next year.
Actually, the balance is rather similar, because of the way I developed the books. Half of the prologue scenes that Robert Jordan worked on ended up in The Gathering Storm; half ended up in Towers of Midnight. I'd say a third of the other material he worked on ended up in The Gathering Storm, and a third ended up in Towers of Midnight. In both cases I've had one character's plotline at the core of the book that was very well plotted out and worked on by Robert Jordan, and one plotline that to a greater extent I've had to add to of myself. That's been the same in both books.
Working on A Memory of Light is going to be a different experience, because the greater amount of what Robert Jordan worked on is weighted toward the end of the book rather than all along one character viewpoint. But there will still be a lot of it there, and in that case I'm writing toward it. You have to remember that the way I write these books often is to take a viewpoint cluster, a group of characters, and write them through from the beginning of the book to the end of the book. Which means that I've already, even in The Gathering Storm, had to work on viewpoint lines for which there was less from Robert Jordan to use. So it's been the same experience—it's really divided by plotlines.
I thought Rand’s arc in The Gathering Storm was brilliant—starting to get better then—bang! Cuendillar Rand, and finally "Veins of Gold". Was it difficult to write? Can you give us some insight into how you stayed in the mind of a madman?
It was difficult to write. I’ve said before that I view a lot of these characters as my high school friends, people I grew up with. Facilitating Rand going through these extremely painful and sometimes revelatory moments was not easy emotionally, and yet there’s an excitement and a power to writing emotional scenes where things are coming together. So I would say it’s actually more difficult to write a character like Gawyn, who’s frustrated and struggling with not knowing what he’s doing, than someone like Rand who always has a direction—even if that direction is straight down, as it was in places. He’s always moving. So because of that, Rand was in many ways easier to write than other characters were. Yet at the same time it was painful to write. That doesn’t really answer your question, but maybe it does give some insight, as you asked.
Will Verin face punishment from the Dark One for what she did? (Also, wow for that scene. Just plain flat out wow!)
Well, I can’t claim very much credit for that scene.
Will Verin face punishment from the Dark One? It will all depend on whether he can get his mitts on her or not.
In reverse order: The editorial mistakes were basically because of the fast turnaround time between when I finished the book and when it was put out. We're working to get those fixed for the ebook and paperback editions, but really, deadlines are to blame there, which is one reason we're slowing down for the next book.
What you're seeing with the surprises, as you described them, is that not all of those are mine; I'm writing some of them that Robert Jordan left instructions on how to write, and the way I plot and reveal is going to be manifest in the way that I approach it.
In response to your first question, I'm given complete creative freedom in these books. Partially because Harriet trusts me, and partially because that's what a writer needs in order to be able to write a book like this. That said, I've mentioned before that I feel a strong compulsion to try to do the books as close to the way Robert Jordan would have as I can, taking into account my own writing style. I'm not trying to make these Brandon Sanderson books; I'm trying to make them Wheel of Time/Robert Jordan books, but I'm also not trying to imitate him since that would turn out as a bad parody. In the end, I'm allowed to do whatever I feel needs to be done to achieve the storytelling the story demands. I do have to convince Harriet, Maria, and Alan that it's the right thing to do. And in some cases that's an easy thing to do, and in some cases it's a harder thing to do. But in all cases I get to write it first and then let them read it. And if I don't manage to pull it off, then I say, "Well, let's try something different."
I know it's premature to discuss this, but I am entertaining fond hopes that after you finish A Memory of Light, you will publish a WoT companion, which will include things like:
—All the notes and details and backstory which never got put into the novels.
—Deleted chapters, or longer draft versions of scenes which had to be edited down.
—An account of the writing process as you experienced it, with perhaps an outline of the books showing how much of each part was yours and how much RJ's, and the difficult decisions you had to make at each point.
—Alternative chapters or scenes which were discarded.
—Answers to any issues which are still disputed by fandom after the last book.
I know this is premature, but I was hoping you could at least tell us if 1) Is this something you, personally, would be willing to do? 2) Is there any chance of it actually happening?
Excellent question. I've spoken on this a little bit before. It is something I'd be willing to do; in fact, it's something I want to do.
I don't want to say that the chances of it happening are poor, but one thing you have to understand is that Harriet is very careful and cautious with Robert Jordan's legacy, and rightly so. You may have heard, for instance, that at the first JordanCon she allowed us to play the tape of him dictating a scene from the prologue of The Gathering Storm, but she asked for it not to be recorded, and she doesn't really want it to be played again. It was just that one time for that special event. People asked her why, and her response was that she didn't want people to remember Robert Jordan in his weakest hours. I think that is a very valid point.
So the decision will be Harriet's. I haven't even approached her about this yet, because I don't think it's the appropriate time. But once the series is done and we've had some time away from it, I will ask her if it's all right if I do something like this.
It would include a lot of the things you mention. Specifically what I want to do is talk about the writing process and the difficult decisions that you mention, some of the scenes that didn't end up in the books, some of the things that Robert Jordan had written as potential scenes. I've mentioned before that in his notes he would often have comments where he says, "I will either do this, or this," and sometimes the options are very contradictory. He had not yet decided between them, and I ended up being the one who decided which one we were going to do. So I would include those and some of the actual notes.
The reason Harriet may not want this to happen is that if his final publication is unfinished notes, that might make her uncomfortable. I certainly intend to make a plea for the importance of this from a scholarly standpoint, that people might be able to have access to this, and also so that the notes are there for people who don't like my interpretation of things, so they can see exactly what Robert Jordan had to say. I'm really hoping we can do it, but let's wait until the series is done and then I'll approach Harriet about it.
Right, so on the trainride, there was talk of the prologues, Brandon said that in each of the prologues for the last three books there is one section that was fully written by RJ—in The Gathering Storm it was the farmer scene and in Towers of Midnight it was the Borderlanders' scene.
He said that the prologue will most probably be released ahead of time again (no big surprise there) and ideally he'd like for people to be able to buy the prologue and then get that much discount on the actual book, however that's difficult to manage with laws and regulations and such.
He said that the scene with the Borderlander farmers in The Gathering Storm prologue and the one with the Borderlander Watch Tower in the Towers of Midnight prologue were written by RJ and that they were some of the last complete scenes RJ wrote (he mentioned this in earlier interviews).
He refused to say who wrote "The Last That Could Be Done" from The Gathering Storm.
He wrote the scenes of Egwene's dinners with Elaida in The Gathering Storm. RJ's notes suggested just one dinner scene but BS decided that it would work better if it was split in two.
I'm not just filling in holes. At the same time, I'm trying hard to keep anything RJ said in mind, and trying to make the book fit his vision.
It's a tough balance. There is a lot of work to be done, depending on the character in question. For example, for The Gathering Storm, he left a lot on Egwene, but less on Rand. In Towers of Midnight, a lot on Mat, less on Perrin. He left a lot of notes on how everyone should end up after the Last Battle, but often didn't say how they'd get there.
One of the things I've been impressed by is this: Harriet and Tor could have hired a ghost writer and pretended that RJ finished the book before he died. People would have believed them. However, while a ghost writer could have imitated RJ's voice, Harriet felt she wanted a fantasy novelist to do it. First, to be honest to the fans. Second, because there was enough work to be done that the person couldn't just connect dots, but would actually have to build parts of the story.
She gave me complete creative freedom to do what needed to be done, with the understanding that she would edit. (If you don't know, Harriet is one of the 'greats' in sf/f editing. She edited Ender's Game, for example, and may of the big fantasy and sf authors during the 70s and 80s. She discovered RJ, edited him, then married him.)
So, when I go wrong, she is there to push me the right direction. It's hard to answer a question of how much is me, and how much is RJ. His fingers are on every scene, as I'm trying to match the character voices (but not his writing style exactly) and get them right. Most scenes come from at least a comment in the notes here or there, and for some, he left a paragraph or two explanation. For others, he wrote the entire thing.
For some, I'm building it from the ground up, taking where the character was at the end of Knife of Dreams and giving them a story that earns them the ending RJ mentioned for them.
Because of the nature of RJ's notes and writing process, there are a lot of things I can (and was told I should) change. Harriet didn't say specifically "Change this." She told me "Jim (RJ) would not have done it exactly like this. You do what you think is best for the story first—that is your primary charge. Don't feel completely beholden to his notes, but respect his story."
That's kind of how I've done it. If the notes say something that I feel needs to change, I change it, but try to be respectful. An example is Egwene's dinner with Elaida. RJ had this planned as a single event. I split it into two chapters, separated by further discovery by Egwene and growth to earn the second half of the dinner.
There are many things like that. Places where RJ said "I'm going to do this, or maybe I'll do this, or maybe neither." I choose what fits for the story. It's usually one of the two, sometimes neither one works. I can be more specific once the last book is out.
That said, I wasn't particularly hip on writing Cadsuane spanking Semirhage. There was no good reason to change it, though. Jim had outlined the scene, and it was in line with the characters.
This entry is a collection of tweets by Brandon announcing the names of the fans who won the charity contest to get their names in Towers of Midnight. Also named in the book were Matt Hatch, webmaster of Theoryland (innkeeper at The Dusty Wheel); Melissa Craib, webmaster of Tar Valon (innkeeper at The Seven-Striped Lass); and Jason Denzel, webmaster of Dragonmount (innkeeper at The Happy Throng). Also included were Kate Nepveu, an old rasfwrj fan and blogger for Tor.com, and Anthony Aziz of TarValon.net, who won the JordanCon 2010 auction. According to Linda's article on the subject, Padra was named after Tricia Erikson, a JordanCon publicist who passed away recently from cancer.
I missed these tweets by Brandon (date unknown), but Linda kindly shared them with me:
Oh, one more. Joel Derby, you're dead too.
Also, Nick Okamoto, I used your name in Towers of Midnight this morning. Congrats.
Also, John Sloan, you survive.
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!
Yes, but there’s no way I’ll tell you anything else about it.
Tell me something about the prequel, then, New Spring. I know it was originally a short novel you published in 1998.
Yes, but it’s not an expansion. The novel New Spring is what I wanted to write in the first place, but I realized that Robert Silverberg would get very angry if I’d sent him a 120,000 words to put in his anthology! So I did a lot of cutting and I made it fits into the anthology, but I still had that novel waiting to be written and I wanted to write it because there was a lot to be said that really fits into the rest of the series.
Even if the prequel has only two storylines while my normal books have four or five storylines there are things that you will not see anywhere else, such as the test for Aes Sedai. You actually see someone take the test for Aes Sedai and you learn how that is done: I have no intention to ever showing it anywhere else.
Also there are clues in New Spring not only as to why certain people hate each other in the main sequence books, but why certain people die in the main sequence books, and I’m not going to put the evidence anywhere else because I’ve already given it here.
That’s why you decided to publish the prequel before the end of the series?
Well, I decided to published New Spring before going on because my publisher asked me to do it, but in retrospect that was probably a mistake. I shouldn’t have. It won’t happen again, though, I’ll work on the next two prequels only after I’ve finished the main sequence books.
And then what will you do? Do you already have another series planned?
Yes, a much more compacted sequence of books. Set in a different universe, different world, different rules and different cultures. Nothing that will be reminiscent of The Eye of the World or The Wheel of Time at all.
I usually save questions like this. Wait until the book is out, wait till it's been out for a little while, and then I can talk specifically about what was me and what was Jim. I don't want to predispose people so that they're thinking "Is this Jim's scene? Is this Brandon's scene? Well he said something about this, and whatnot." So the only thing I'm telling people, regarding his writing, is that I do have a thing from the prologue, each of the three have one of the scenes that he wrote for the prologue put in it, and of course the ending. And other than this, I'm not saying a ton about what is his and what is mine. Just wait until people have read the book, and then I'll start answering a few more of those questions.
Like I've down with Towers of Midnight and The Gathering Storm. I've been a little more free in recent times about what was me and what was him, and I'm still not very specific for you, I don't want that focus, but I will start answering more of those questions.
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.
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.
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.
In The Gathering Storm, Egwene was mostly RJ, Rand mostly Brandon. In Towers of Midnight, Mat mostly RJ, Perrin mostly Brandon.
Hey went to the signing in Sydney tonight. Nothing really new, except that both times he spoke of the climax of the series (that Jordan had written) he spoke of it as one chapter (he spoke much the same in Melbourne too, but I didn't really note it then).
The second thing is that someone asked whether he had freaked Harriet out with how well he channeled Jordan, and he replied that he had freaked Harriet out, though not so much for that as for some of his crazy ideas. He said he thought Jordan would have been innovating and creating as the process of writing unfolded, and that he did much the same, throwing thoughts at Harriet, some of which made it into the book. An example of one which didn't end up in the books, and which apparently Harriet 'freaked' out about was that he suggested Perrin might take up the Way of the Leaf.
He indicated that [Bayrd's POV] was not the part of this prologue that RJ wrote. Meaning that scene was his.
I thought he did a really good job with it. Very RJ-esque in my opinion.
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.
That leads beautifully into the next reader question: are you worried that fans will want to throw you into Shayol Ghul for the Dark One to feast upon?
[laughter] Yes and no. The ending of the actual book Robert Jordan wrote himself, so I can at least depend on that, being, you know—
True to the original.
True to the original. Years ago now, when I first read the end, I felt very satisfied by it as a fan. I think that ending is good. My job is to get us there without screwing up in between. Hopefully they won’t want to throw me in. I mean, this is the last battle and there are some casualties...Even so I’m hoping that doesn’t cause them to want to throw me into the pit. I do the best I can, and hope.
Here's a video I took at LibertyCon of Brandon reading the A Memory of Light opening again. No new text (he actually stops a few paragraphs short) but he does talk about about why he structured the scene as he did. Sorry for the shakiness, it was taken on my iPhone (my arms were pretty sore near the end!).
So, the last wind scene. I spent a long time thinking about this one, and what I would do with this, because Jim had intended one book, so from the notes you can guess that there was only one wind scene indicated, and I had three to do, because of three books, and it felt very appropriate for me, as I was going over it, to have the wind come out of the Two Rivers. It felt appropriate to me; it felt thematic with the first book—if you go back and look at the wind scene from the first book—and I actually had it blow across the course of book one, basically. We don't get all the way up where book one is, but we head out to Caemlyn, and then they kind of veer off. The point of this scene is kind of...again, it set everything that's been happening—where we are, and what's going on—but I also felt that this is a book of contrasts. This is a book of stark, stark whites and deep, deep blacks. It's named A Memory of Light for that reason, and so I wanted to end the scene at Rand laughing, with warm light spilling out of his tent, and that's kind of what we've got going on there—the contrast that's going on in this land—and there is this pool of light right there, represented in him, and that's our metaphor for this whole book: death, destruction, and the Dragon Reborn.
Yes. Right. I could barely say the names right back then, and half the time I didn't say them right...
You were so cute. (laughter)
Yeah. I was very, very scared of the Wheel of Time fandom...
We were very scared of you; we didn't know what was gonna happen.
...so, the interesting thing is at the time, I think you said the first thing you did was you wanted to find out who killed Asmodean, and that got the whole room laughing at the time, and you talked about how you briefed yourself on all the material that was left, and [?] and everything, and you said Jim wanted one final novel, but you didn't see any way. You made an estimate of the number of words, hundreds of thousands of words...
Yeah. 800,000 was my initial estimate.
And what did it end up being? I'm just curious.
It ended up being around, let's see...around nine, maybe ten...so, a hundred—or a million words, right around.
It grew a bit, yeah. And part of that is the fact of cutting it gave me a little more space to do that, and part of it was, you know, little touches here and there. You never can guess really exactly. It didn't grow by enormous amounts—it grew by maybe ten or twenty percent, which is within a reasonable threshold when I guesstimate a book length—but yeah, it did grow a bit, and after the books are all out, I'll tell you some of the things that grew, some of the things that got added. There were things that weren't in the initial outline that I decided needed to be in the books as I was writing them, and that happens with every book that you're going to be doing.
The process for writing this book, for those who haven't heard: When I walked in there and I was given this, I was given a stack of about two hundred pages. I don't know how much I've talked about this at this con so far; I talked about this recently somewhere. Oh, it was on the interview I did, first day. It's gonna go up on the air somewhere. So, about two hundred pages. I can release that number because Tom Doherty released it at DragonCon, I believe it was. [It was at WorldCon 2008.] He got up and said, "This is how much we had." And, Robert Jordan was what we call a 'discovery writer'; George R. R. Martin calls it a 'gardener'. He would not write chronologically; he would write on whatever occurred to him at the moment. He would 'discover' his way through a book. He usually had an ending in mind, and things like that, and important scenes he was gonna write, but he would very much just feel it out as he went. This is very common among writers; it’s one of the main archetypes of writers there are out there. Stephen King does it this way too. Neil Gaiman says he does it a lot this way too. You kind of feel your way through.
But what it means is that what was handed to me, they had been arranged by Alan, one of the members of Team Jordan, into an order that he kind of thought they might go in, but there was really no indication from Jim [as to] the order of these scenes. They were just a list of scenes. And where those had come from are scenes that he had worked on, which a large number of them were half-complete, because he would just write on what he felt like at the time, get a few pages in, then set it aside and then think about it some more while he’d work on something else. So there were a lot of fragmentary scenes. There are a lot of scenes you’ll be reading in these three books where it’s like three pages of Robert Jordan and like three pages of me making up a scene, or a page or Robert Jordan, two pages of me and then another page of Robert Jordan, or things like that. A lot of those, there are places here and there where I’ve grabbed a paragraph of his, because the rest wasn’t finished, it was just a paragraph where he said, “It’s going to do this, and then here’s this paragraph of this great sequence.” And so a lot of it was like that.
A lot of it was interviews. During the last months, his cousin Wilson and members of Team Jordan would be talking to him and Jim would start talking about scenes. There’s a famous one, “There’s a ______ in the Blight,” which is a quote from Wilson. That was a time when Jim told him—you’ll have to have him tell that story some time, it’s awesome—but Jim just started going off—Jim is Robert Jordan, for those who didn’t know—Jim would go off on...he just talked through this entire scene. And that’s one of the ones that we had the most understanding of, in a lot of ways, some of these scenes where he would talk about them.
For instance, the first scene in The Gathering Storm, there’s a prologue with an old farmer sitting on his front porch. This scene was dictated by Jim, and we actually had the recording of that, it got played at JordanCon I. And the interesting thing, if you were to have listened to that or if I can just describe it to you. It’s all in present tense. It’s like, “There’s this farmer, and he’s sitting on the porch and he looks up and he sees the clouds. These are black and silver clouds, and he’s never seen black and silver clouds before; they’re very striking.” And Jim goes through this whole narrative like that. Well, that’s very complete as a scene, he does the whole thing. And yet it’s in present tense, without a lot of the language turned into written language; it’s talked through.
Right, there’s one point where he describes a sound as sounding like a freight train. Well, you can’t say it sounds like a freight train in the Wheel of Time, that doesn’t make any sense.
Exactly. There’s that scene, so I had several of those scenes, where basically I can keep Jim’s voice intact and just tweak the words a little bit to make them fit and add in a few sentences of description here and there, and we had several of those scenes. Then there were the Q&A scenes, which were Maria saying “So what happens to this character?” “Well, let me tell you what happens to this character.” And then Jim would talk. And so because of those Q&As, we knew a lot about the ending—a whole ton—and he did write the last scene himself and he talked through where everyone ends up and things, and so the bulk, and I’ve said all along, the weight of what we had from him was about that ending, where he would go and say “Here’s what happens to this character,” and it’s really talking about here’s what happens to this character in the Last Battle and then after the Last Battle, assuming there is an after the Last Battle, this is where this character would go. And so we have that basically for everybody.
You and Harriet had a great way of describing it at one of the book signings for The Gathering Storm. You said that you had a map of the United States and you knew that at the end of the book that Perrin ends up in Chicago, but he starts off in like Orlando, and you know that he has to go to Los Angeles before he can get to Chicago, but you don’t know all the other steps in between and why he’s going to Los Angeles, so they had to figure out all the in-between parts.
Yeah, there are great things where there’s just like a line from his notes. “And then Perrin is here doing this.” And you’re like “What? Perrin’s in Malden, how is he gonna get there? And he’s going to do what? And then he’s got to be up here to do what?” And then we know the ending, what he’s doing there. So, there was a lot of that. So, this all became the book, where I built an outline out of this, I took the scenes that he had said. The thing about the notes is that a lot of the notes were to him, and so he would say things like “I’m going to do this or this” and they’re polar opposites. And so there are sequences like that, where I decide what we’re going to do, and stuff like that. And this all is what became the trilogy that you’re now reading.
Harriet wins. Harriet always wins. Usually what happens is that there'll be...if Harriet says something, we just do it. The only time when there's questioning is when I disagree with Maria or Alan, and we both kind of make our arguments. We do these in-line edits with track changes in Microsoft Word; we'll have whole conversations there, where I'll say "This is why I think this character would do what they're doing," and Maria would come in and say, "This is why I think you're wrong and they wouldn't do this," and we'll have big discussions, and Harriet'll make the call, and then I'll do it as Harriet says, 'cause Harriet knows the characters better than anyone.
And so there are times when I've been overruled—it happens on every book—and there are times where Harriet said, "No, I think Brandon's right," and Maria and Alan—her superfans—disagree, but the way that fandom works, we all disagree on things. You'll find this, and I disagree with some people on how character interpretations will happen, and things like that. Some people, for instance, don't think my Talmanes is true to Jim's Talmanes. Things like that. That's the sort of thing we're arguing over. It's very rarely over main characters, but it's like, "Is Talmanes acting like Talmanes would?" And I read the character one way, and some people read the character another way, and I just have to go with my interpretation, and if Harriet says, "No, this isn't right," I revise it. If Harriet says, "No, this feels right to me," then we just go with it.
Was there ever a case where you and Maria and Alan had a difference of opinion and Harriet had a completely different take?
That all four of us had a different take? Yeah, that's happened; that's very rare but it has happened. We're trying to piece together something that's...there's always this consideration of "What would Jim do?" But there's also a consideration of Brandon as author, not knowing what Jim would do, what does Brandon think needs to happen narratively? And there are some things where I, reading the books as an author, say "This is where he was going." "No, he didn't say it in the notes." "No, it's nowhere in there; he doesn't make mention of it." "This is where he was going; my understanding of story structure, plotting and things, and I can say, you know, as sure as I can say anything, that this is what he was going to do." And, you know, sometimes Maria and Alan, they look at the notes and say, "No, that's not at all what he was going to do; look what the notes say." And I say, "No, that's not what they're saying," and we have arguments about that too.
There's lots of discussing going on. We're all very passionate about the Wheel of Time. It'd be like getting Jenn and Jason from Dragonmount and Matt from Theoryland together and hashing out what they think about where Demandred is, or something like that. There are gonna be lots of passionate discussions. I think, at the end of the day, that makes the book better, and the fact that we have kind of...Harriet tends to just...if she has a feeling, she lets us argue about it, and then she says, like...you know, 'cause she's the one that would sit at dinner and discuss the characters with Jim. None of us did that, and she did that for twenty years, so...yeah.
The prologue ebook for A Memory of Light, "By Grace and Banners Fallen," is up for preorder on Dragonmount. Other vendors to follow.
After prologue is released on October 2nd, will you be able to say which part of it was all RJ?
Will this be part of the whole book when it comes out, or will it only be sold separately?
Tor and Harriet like to sell the prologue early as a separate ebook. It will be the same one in the final book.
I know that this isn't your idea, but selling the prologue is a brutal cash grab. I'll save my $3 and wait for the book.
I have made it clear both to fans and Tor that I do not like this process. But you are right, I do not get to choose.
No normal book??? Only an ebook??
Tor releases the prologue of each WoT early as a for-sale ebook. It is the same one that will be in the print edition in January.
On September 17, the prologue showed up for sale on Google Books in Canada, including some revealing previews that tempted fans (aside from the Canadians who were able to buy it) to piece together the prologue from Google Book searches. Predictably, chaos ensued.
I blame Canada.
Last time it was some guy in China with an early Towers of Midnight copy. But Canada was the dark horse nobody saw coming. #amolgate
I hope moving up release date is a possibility, elsewise a little black market will emerge very soon...
I should disclose that I was essentially the ringleader of the put-the-prologue-together team, but I wasn't trying to make a threat here. It wasn't even my idea, and if I hadn't organized it, someone else would have; that's just how things go in the WoT world. But I was really referring to the possibility that some of the Canadians would share the whole prologue, or even sell it.
I'm going to pretend like Brandon did this on purpose. #wotgh
Now I just blame Google. What a cluster****.
What's sad about the prologue leak is that Harriet and others in publishing will likely see this as proof ebook releases should be delayed.
Wow. I know I'd be pretty pissed. Wonder how Sanderson feels about it. @BrandSanderson Spoiler thoughts?
Google's stopped the sale now, but some people already have copies and shared spoilers. So Harriet & Co. probably aren't happy.
I'm not fond of spoilers, but I can't see the original comment, so I don't know the specifics of this discussion.
This sort of thing happens. I don't really mind, personally. Harriet is probably upset, however.
If you're the type who wants the $2.99 A Memory of Light prologue ebook, it will be available September 19th instead of October 2nd.
Is that correct? The ebook will be available tomorrow instead of October 2nd? Pre-order or not?
I believe so.
Was the RJ part of the prologue the Bayrd scene?
No, actually. It was the Isam part, though I filled in a hole in the middle of the scene.
Looking forward to it. But do you know when it'll be available in Europe?
I don't know, I'm afraid. That is up to the UK publisher, and I don't think ebooks are as big a concern to them as they are here.
Where can European people get it from? Dragonmount won't sell it to me. Do I have to go for a torrent?
The problem is that Tor doesn't have rights to sell it in Europe. It's a frustrating system, but Orion UK has the European rights.
The system made more sense back before ebooks; a European company needed assurance US publishers wouldn't flood their markets.
I will check Orion UK once at work. Thanks for the tip!
Warning: they might have been planning to release it in October. This whole "Release it two weeks early" thing surprised us.
It's because of leaked copies in Canada. (Also, it's Orbit in UK—not Orion. I get them mixed up.)
What is your opinion on the North American exclusivity of the A Memory Of Light prologue?
It's because Tor doesn't have rights to sell anywhere else; Orbit UK has those rights. If you want the book, ask them.
I wish Orbit had it out too, and I'm seeing what I can do. But it is their call.
Tor has a post indicating that the A Memory of Light prologue ebook is now for sale in select countries outside the U.S.
Note that this doesn't include countries where Orbit UK has rights to the books. To buy it there, you'll need to ask them to release it.
Who do we contact to ask them to release it? Is there an email address we can write to?
They have a form on their website. That might work.
Where can Australian fans get a copy of the WOT release?
Orbit UK owns the rights. They'd have to either release it or authorize Dragonmount. You can email them through their website.
Is the prologue going to come out in audio or do I need to pick it up the written down on magic pixel paper version?
No audio I'm aware of. (Until the full book is out, of course.)
Oh, just saw that there was one. Never mind.
Any idea as to when will Weller @WellerBookWorks starts taking autograph orders for A Memory of Light?
By grace and banners fallen. Was that your line or RJ's? Exquisitely eloquent if I say so myself.
How bad is this? I honestly can't remember. It's one of my favorite lines, but I don't know if it was in the notes or not.
Will it be possible to order A Memory of Light signed, like the previous two books?
Yes, it should be.
Jason of Dragonmount writes the world's first review of A Memory of Light in the form of a touching letter to Robert Jordan.
Will you write this before or after you finish the WoT prequels?
Infinity of Heaven almost certainly will be written before the prequels, though I might do them between the Infinity books.
You know, the reception of New Spring: the Novel surprised me. Some people were upset or even angry that I wasn't getting on with the main story. I even heard people say there was no reason to read the novel if you had read the novella. (That, by the way, is very wrong. There is stuff in that novel that won't ever be anywhere else, including the test for Aes Sedai and the reasons why certain people have the relationships they do in the books among other things.) Anyway, given the reactions of so many people, I decided to shelve the other two prequels for a while.
Let's see here. Harriet killed a character in the book that I did not intend to kill. So I wrote the entire book with a character living and she killed this character.
Did she tell you right before you finished, or what?
She sent back the draft and said "This person dies."
So did you have to change a lot?
So they succumb to their wounds. I intended them to live, so there is a character who died unexpectedly. So that's a slight spoiler. There is like a chapter that's over a hundred pages. It's a Super Chapter.
Did you have to invent any of it yourself, or did Jordan leave a lot of it for you?
He left some of it for me, and then I had to make the rest. As you're reading through the books, probably about half and half. Half will be stuff that he wrote notes on, half will be stuff that I wrote.
Do you feel like it comes pretty easy?
Some of it does. I mean I've been reading since I was a kid. So some of the characters like Perrin is very natural for me. And Rand's super natural for me. Others are a little less natural for me.
Yes, like Mat. Mat's harder for me to write.
Why is that?
Because Mat is very complex. Not to say that Perrin's not, but Perrin's straightforward. You know what I mean? Perrin says what he means, and does what he means. Mat says the opposite of what he means, and does the opposite of what he says. Making that tone correct for that is very hard. He's one part rapscallion, the other part Awesomeness. And balancing when he's playing the fool, and when he's just being awesome is very hard to get that balance down, because you don't want it to be silly, you know he can play the fool a bit but he shouldn't be silly. Otherwise it won't match from when he's being Awesome as well, if that makes sense.
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.
Brandon responded that it’s highly unlikely, due to it being against Harriet McDougal’s wishes and to the fact that annotations would have to be down to the sentence level, as it was often the case that one sentence would have been written by Robert Jordan, then altered by Brandon, then edited for content and style by Harriet, then copy edited by Harriet’s assistant Maria L. Simons.
Brandon did reveal several doozies in regards to what Jordan left behind, however. Each prologue to the final three books contains a scene written by Robert Jordan. One already known is the scene with the farmer in The Gathering Storm, for Towers of Midnight, Jordan wrote the prologue scene involving the soldiers in the Borderlander tower. And for A Memory of Light? We’ll see.
Perhaps the biggest admission, and one that brought a hush over the crowd, was the reveal that Jordan wrote the chapter in The Gathering Storm where Verin reveals she is Black Ajah to Egwene and the sequence in Towers of Midnight where Moiraine is rescued by Mat. Two of the most important elements in these final books came directly from Jordan’s hand.
Additionally, Sanderson pointed out that the Rand and Perrin viewpoints in The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight are more of his work, while Egwene and Mat’s viewpoints in those books are more Robert Jordan’s work.
Brandon also revealed that he makes a cameo in the books, in much the same way that Robert Jordan makes a cameo as an item in Knife of Dreams. (He appears as a ter'angreal of a fat man holding a book in the chapter “A Different Skill.”) A few years ago Sanderson was gifted one of Robert Jordan’s swords, choosing a katana with red and gold dragons twining around the hilt and handle. This gift from Robert Jordan’s family is now present in the series, and represents Brandon’s own cameo, for those who wish to look.
Somebody asked if he killed any characters against RJ's wishes.
He said that there was one character who he was going to let live but Harriet insisted should die. And there was another character whose fate was not spelled out in the notes (I didn't quite hear what he said there) and that he killed that character himself. Other than that everybody who dies, dies by RJ's hand. I think he talked about this in other interviews so this is probably not new.
I also asked him if the character of Verin had any mythological parallels.
He said that he doesn't know and would have to see if there is anything in the notes. He also said that most of that stuff was done by RJ but he did add some of his own. He specifically mentioned that Perrin getting wounded in the leg in Towers of Midnight was his own addition. He didn't elaborate but there are a number of deities (particularly blacksmiths of some sort) like Vulcan and Perun who were wounded in the leg.
What do you want to know about the process? I sometimes have to be vague about what I did and what RJ did, as Harriet prefers people to read the books and enjoy them without spending a lot of time trying to pick out the differences between our styles. I can try to answer a few questions if you pitch them at me, though.
I don't have any questions, I just wanted to thank you for all of your hard work and dedication that you have put into finishing this series.
I picked up this series about 10 or 12 years ago, and being in Randland helped me get through some tough times. I was very sad when Jordan died, and when Harriet made the announcement that you were going to finish the series, I must admit that I had my doubts.
So I figured I would take a look at your work, and picked up Mistborn. That book was awesome! So after finishing the trilogy, I was like "Ok, this guy can write, he is the perfect pick to finish WoT."
I wanted to jump in and start reading The Gathering Storm, but by that point it had been a while since I had read Knife of Dreams, so I went back and started at the beginning, and when I got to the books you wrote, I was very impressed.
There were so many good moments in The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight, I don't know where to begin. The one that stands out the most in my mind is Mat's story at the end of Towers of Midnight.
Anyways, I'm really looking forward to the release of A Memory of Light. You rock, Brandon Sanderson!
tl;dr: Just wanted to let Sanderson know how much it means to me that he has done such a stellar job in completing one of the fantasy series that is near and dear to my heart.
It has been an honor.
I've read things before from you saying that you received a lot of written guidance as well as ideas that hadn't been fully fleshed out by Mr. Jordan to help you take the stories towards the conclusion he'd always had in mind.
Once you had worked through the stories that Mr. Jordan wanted to be told in your head and got down to writing, was there anything that you really wanted to include or thought would have a special level of awesomity but felt that you shouldn't because it went against (or would probably be against, under different circumstances) the ideas Jordan had?
For clarification, did you ever feel like a character should experience something that Mr. Jordan hadn't mentioned or had clearly discouraged? Or feel that something should happen that Mr. Jordan hadn't conceived or didn't want?
This is a good question. Yes, there are things I'd have done differently—but out of respect for Mr. Jordan's desires and the integrity of the series, I haven't done them. For example, I like to use magic in ways that Mr. Jordan didn't. You see me playing with this a little bit in my use of gateways. There are many things possible with weaves (particularly since you can tie them off) that I feel exploring would have changed the focus of the stories in ways I don't think Mr. Jordan would have wanted.
One thing that specifically came up once was me wanting to delve more into the Heroes of the Horn. The Wheel has always turned, and time is infinite. If people can occasionally be added to the Horn, that would mean that the number of people tied to the Horn is also infinite unless people get unbound as well as bound. I wanted to explore this idea—in conversation only, this isn't a plot point—but was persuaded by Team Jordan that RJ wanted nobody ever to be unbound, and that exploration in this direction would go against his vision for the world.
Thank you for your answer, I've never had the pleasure of interacting with you directly before, although I am making my through your series of lectures on YouTube (that I've always assumed you consented to?) which are truly very informative.
You mentioned that there are aspects of the world of the WoT that you would like to explore in ways that Mr Jordan wouldn't. Would you be interested in writing spin off books, perhaps with different characters set in the same universe/world? Regardless of your interest in doing something like that, would you ever be allowed to?
On a slightly related note, do you feel that there are any aspects (characters, magic, unexplored possibilities etc.) in the WoT series that have since influenced your other writings?
The main reason I haven't done things like this is because it's not my world, and I feel it should remain closer to RJ's vision. So, even if I were to do spin offs (which I don't think will happen) I would feel the same constraints. My goal has never to be to turn the Wheel of Time into something else; there is plenty of room in my own work to explore magic as I like to explore it. In the Wheel of Time, the magic is RJ's—and should remain true (as much as possible) to his vision.
I would say that RJ's work, and my experience on the WoT, has taught me a number of things. RJ was far more subtle in some of his plotting than I am, and I'd like to think that seeing that has helped me learn to be better in that area. I also like how wonderful his third person limited viewpoint can be, as proven by Mat. (See the other answer I gave.) The way he shaped a narrative to the character giving it is amazing, and has influenced me greatly.
Thanks again for the answer. I'm going to be far more conscious of Mat's narrative from now on with that answer!
Can you supply date, town, and bookstore?
This past Wednesday May 2nd in Las Vegas in the lobby of the Golden Nugget hotel. He was in town as one of the guests/teachers of a writers convention. He squeezed in a quick signing for local fans. If you signed up for his newsletter and gave your location as in the Vegas area you got an email from Peter about the signing. There were 8 or 9 of us there so it was pretty cool.
He let us ask some questions but didn't give any new details that aren't already out there. The info on the prologue came up as he was talking about his progress revising the book and how the ending was pretty much all RJ and didn't even need to be polished. He then mentioned that parts of the prologues of all 3 books had been written or dictated by RJ but the scene that was released was not one of them.
I'll try to sum up a few other things I remember:
We talked about if he laughed when fans were guessing who wrote what and getting it way wrong. He said the story he could tell about that was someone looking at the chapter titles to tGS and saying they could tell that Brandon wrote those when of course Harriet has named all the chapters since the start.
He was disappointed that DKS couldn't finished the last cover even though he really thinks Whelan is the best fantasy artist around. He likened it to the same as it being too bad that he had to finish the series instead of RJ.
He talked some more about how he felt Mat was the hardest character to get write because he's pretty complicated. His thoughts don't always match up with his actions and it was hard to strike the right tone.
He knows that his action sequences don't sound like RJ's. He said he just doesn't have the real world experience that RJ did as a combat soldier so he just writes them as the best action scenes that he can.
He said Perrin was his favorite character so one of his goals was to redeem the character a bit and make him awesome again.
I asked about his Alcatraz books and he said there will be one more but it's not high on the priority list and will be several years. He also said the Scholastic distribution wasn't great and he's working on buying back the rights and bringing the series to TOR for wider distribution and ebook release.
Stuff like that. Nothing that hasn't been covered before.
On every visit abroad, Sanderson said, he takes notes and tries to write down a story that inspired him, to be used as a "seed" for later stories.
For example, an exhibit of necklaces and armors made out of coins that he saw nine years ago in the Middle East inspired him to create "coin armors" for the characters in his new book A Memory of Light, which is scheduled to be launched in fall this year.
So what can we expect?
"I can tell you a few things as Robert Jordan was once asked what the series was about and he said that 'It's about what it's like if you're a normal person who is told that the world is going to end unless you try and save it.' This end book is what everyone has been expecting. They call it the Last Battle, so it's the last showdown as there's this massive war going on. You can also expect the last chapter written by Robert Jordan himself. He always promised fans that he knew what the end of the series would be, so he sat down and wrote it before he passed away. It's gone into the book virtually unchanged by me. It's the goal I've been working towards all this time.”
Boy, that's a hard one, because those are going to be personal moments. You describe it quite well, but it's the sort of thing that happens with writing any series. The most personal moments for me honestly happened when I read the ending years ago. For me, the series has been finished already for all of that time. It has been an emotional experience, and I'm certain it will continue to be one.
You also have to remember that writing this was very draining, and that has kind of the opposite emotional effect. But I'm not a terribly emotional person. I'm not sure I can come up with anything specific other than that night sitting and reading the ending that Robert Jordan had written.
This is spoilery, but there's also the moment when I wrote Egwene's death scene—that was probably the most emotional scene I wrote. I finished it, and then it was like a "wow, so that just happened" sort of moment. I don't know if I can describe it in the same way.
For you, reading the book, these moments are going to come like unexpected smacks to the face. For me, I spent five months working on the outline for this book specifically, after I had spent months outlining the other two books. So I knew what was coming, and that makes it a different experience.
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.
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.
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 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 was lucky enough to get to go to the Memory of Light signing in Lexington at Joseph-Beth on January 11th.
When I was getting some books personalized, I told him how much I really liked the characterization of Androl and Perava.
He told me that Androl was a fun character for him to write, because it was his "own" Asha'man.
When he agreed to finish WoT, as he was looking over his notes, he asked if he could create an Asha'man to do with what he wanted. Thus, Androl.
He also talked about how Perava was his idea of how the Red Ajah would make their way in the world after the taint was gone from saidin.
Granted, they were relatively minor characters, but they had the best side story in the final three books, IMHO.
Is there a character you took in a different direction from what Jordan had intended?
In terms of a character, and what would happen to them ultimately, no, not really. However, there were times when some things had to be adjusted, specifically some plot points, in order to make the narrative as a whole flow better. Brandon did mention that he wanted a character that he felt was his own, which he got to do the most development on. That character became Androl. A lot of what Androl did were things which Jordan said had to happen. Brandon picked Androl to do them, and gave the character his own touch more than any other.
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.
The real standout question for me was someone who asked if there was anything that Brandon found difficult or uncomfortable to write.
Brandon talked about going into the outline, finding a couple things that made him go "Huh, that's interesting," (making specific mention of a certain conversation involving dresses and the color thereof), but the one that really stood out was "Oh, come on, you're going to make me write a spanking scene?"
What was Brandon given to start his work?
He received one scene from each prologue—the first scene from The Gathering Storm that was dictated, the Kandori tower scene from Towers of Midnight, and one scene from A Memory of Light that I will not state since it contains a spoiler. There were large chunks of the ending, including the entire epilogue. He received fragments of Egwene's visit from her "special visitor" inThe Gathering Storm, and a proposal at the end of Towers of Midnight. There were also discussions of scenes, and answers from Team Jordan.
Not specifically against his wishes. If it was in the notes, talking about a character...one of our first requirements, and I put it on myself on this, was to avoid going in different a direction from Robert Jordan with anything, specifically because I didn't want these books to become about me. I wanted them to remain the Wheel of Time. Now, I had to be nudged by Harriet at several points early on. She would tell me, you have to change some of these things. You do have to be willing to write the book as it needs to be written; Robert Jordan wouldn't have stuck to this outline exactly, and if you did stick to it exactly, it would feel like it doesn't have any life to it.
And so, there are times, when I was working, and mostly these are plot things—I would say, "You know what, we need to change this." An example of this is in The Gathering Storm, there's a scene—it's not too bad; it's not a big spoiler [laughter]—but there are several scenes where Egwene is having dinner with the Amyrlin. Well, that was originally in Robert Jordan's notes as one scene, and I split it to two scenes, where there's a dinner, it breaks, and then we come back, and I put some things in between because with the narrative flow of that sequence, it felt more powerful for me to work with it that way. I didn't remove any of the things that Robert Jordan said to have happen, and used several of his scenes that he'd written to construct those, but in that case, I felt that moving it around like that made for a better book. And so that's the sort of thing I would change.
I will say that, early on, when I first met with them, I did say, "I would like to have a character that I can just kind of do whatever I want with," so that I have, you know...it was kind of, maybe hubristic of me or whatever—I wanted to do that, I'm like, "Can I have one to play with? I want an Asha'man to play with." And it was actually Maria who suggested Androl, and said "Go look at him; there's not a lot written about him. The personality, Robert Jordan doesn't have much written down for who he is, and he seems like he's well-poised to do this. That would be a very good one." So Androl, almost everything that's happening with him, Robert Jordan didn't say "Do it with him." There are things I have him doing that Robert Jordan said, in this notes, "This has to happen." But I specifically took Androl as a character and went places with him.
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."
(to Melissa) Cool t-shirt! [laughter]
Hi; my name's Melissa Snedeker; I'm from Colorado Springs. I have been reading the series for about ten years now. Love it. My question is to Brandon. There is a notable difference between you and Robert Jordan's writing. I was wondering what the biggest influence that you had on the books [was], and what were your main thoughts that you added on top of Robert Jordan's?
I usually shy away from saying too much about this because we prefer that when you read the books you not spend a lot of time trying to figure out what was me and what was Robert Jordan. It's safe to say that, at any given point in the book, you will find my influence and his influence.
That said, I've said before the epilogue of this book—and significant chunks of the last little part as well, but specifically the epilogue—was written by him before he passed away, so you do know that. Things I've said before—and I'm probably not going to say much more than this, at least until the books have been out for a while—in Gathering Storm, if it was Egwene, Egwene's plotline was more Robert Jordan, and Rand's plotline was a little more me—we both were involved in both, but there is that—and if it was in Towers of Midnight, Mat's plotline was more Robert Jordan, and Perrin's plotline was more me.
But it's really hard to get down into specifics, because I don't want you focusing on that, and beyond that, I've even started to forget. [laughter] Because I've been working on this... No really! You guys laugh about that, but I've been working on it so long, I will do things, and it's things that came out of the notes, and then I'll go back and look and I have forgotten that those things came from the notes, because at this point in the creative process, you're building a book, and you're looking for the inspirations from the stories or from the notes, and they're kind of sometimes the same to me, whether it's the notes or the stories. And so, anyway, I'm sorry to give you kind of a roundabout non-answer to your question, but maybe in another year or so I can say a little bit more. But really, we would rather it just remain....we don't want it to be at the forefront of people's minds when they're reading.
Yeah. Alright, thank you so much.
Hi, I'm Michael Chantry from Podunk [?] Idaho—[claps] someone knows the area. Thank you for the books; they're amazing. Thanks Robert Jordan for the books. I like them so much I actually named my second child Perrin. [applause]
My question is to both Brandon and Harriet. I know you love this new book, A Memory of Light, that you've created for us, and out of it, is there anything that we... What is your favorite part? What did you enjoy most about it? If you can give us a chapter, a section...anything. I know you're going to say "the whole thing." [laughter]
(flips through book) [laughter] There's a 200-page chapter in this book. [hoots, buzz of talking] I felt it very thematically important, and my favorite part is right at the end of that chapter and the beginning of the next chapter, and the next chapter is actually very short, and so really, it's probably Chapter 39, but with the lead-in at the end of chapter 38.
And Harriet, do you have a favorite part?
(talks to Peter) 37 and 38? Okay, 37 and 38. Peter knows these things better than I do. [laughter]
Well, I love the end of Chapter 23—the final sequence—and as you're aware from Brandon's other books, I mean a lot of the chapters will have a piece here, and then there's a two-line space and you jump five hundred miles away, and so on, but the last segment of 23 I think is just super. But there are an awful lot of things that I do love in this book; the scene I read for you is one of my favorites; there's more of it, but I thought, "Oh, I don't know; I think I'm getting on too long," because we hadn't quite timed it out. I think it's a wonderful book. [laughter, applause]
I know that the question wasn't directed up here to me, but I think I definitely need to say that—without being cliché—the ending, the epilogue, was far and away everything I could have hoped it was, and it was my favorite part of the book. It was just...I can't wait for all of you to eventually read it, and hopefully have the same kind of reaction that I did. It's pretty awesome.
I can talk a little bit more about that, because...I told you the Asmodean story, but next under that sheet was this, was the...were the scenes that Robert Jordan had written for the book. And so, that included sections from the prologue, which got split into various pieces of the various prologues of the three novels; sections out of the book; and then this ending, the epilogue, and it's one of the most...one of the scenes where you're able to preserve, a sequence that's the most close to the way Robert Jordan left it. Because a lot of scenes he'd leave, he'd leave like a paragraph, and then it's like I have to expand that into, or I have to work a whole thing and then have that paragraph in.
There's a famous scene, for instance, with Verin in Gathering Storm where he left, you know, the kinda...what you would imagine is the important parts, but it's only the important parts, and then it doesn't have a lead-in or an exit to the scene, and so I had to write up and then lead in to what he'd written, and then lead out of it, and that sort of stuff. And this, it's actually...we've got complete sequences that he wrote before he passed away. And so, when you get to that epilogue, you can know...there's some very non-touched-by-the-rest-of-us stuff that he had in a very good shape to be published before he passed away.
And I should have thought of that, but as he read it in 2007—and so did I, and I had known some bits of it for years before that—but it really is splendid.
Thank you very much. [applause]
Egwene. After that, Bela. I'd promised she would live, but Harriet decided that I was cheating to keep her alive.
How long did it take you to write Egwene's death? What were your emotions then? How much had RJ written of it?
It was a hard one, to be sure. Hardest in the books. Had a long conversation with Team Jordan about how to manage it.
RJ had not written much of that sequence.
Why did Egwene have to die? Very sad.
I agree. But if you look at the arc of her character, you might begin to see why it was important.
Without spoilers, were there any characters you want to kill/save that you couldn't do to Jordan's wishes?
There was one. But it was Harriet's call, not RJ's, that ended them.
Who did you find hardest to kill?
Egwene by a mile. Followed by Bela.
Why did you kill Bela?
I tried to keep her alive! Harriet told me I'd put her in too bad a situation, and she needed to die.
She was right, of course, but it still hurts.
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.
The husk that Rand sees, which gave birth to the void. Second: Almost all, but a few were left open and decided by us.
What happened to Shaidar Haran? He seems to have dropped off the face of Randland.
Rand sees him as a husk that gave birth to the void.
Easiest: Perrin. Hardest: Mat. Followed by Aviendha and Tuon.
Now that you're finished, what was your favorite scene to write? Character?
Perrin, and the forging of his hammer. In A Memory of Light it was the sequence with Lan near the end.
What character was most difficult to write for?
Mat was the most difficult for me to get right.
The Rand and Mat dialogue where they try to one up each other was amazing. Thank you for that (and the whole book).
That scene was one of my favorites to work on.
What was the most shocking thing you learned when first reading RJ's notes?
Yes, yes. So, the main character, Rand. He is the one who's been told this, and he leaves in the first book, goes off, chased out of his home city by all of these, you know....different factions want him, and want to do things with him, and he left behind his father. They had a very nice relationship, and one of the things I wanted to do was kind of bring it full circle and have him and his father meet back up again. I wanted to do that; it felt like it would be a very touching thing. There was nothing in the notes either way to say if it could or couldn't happen, and so I went into and I said, "I really want to have a meeting between Rand and his father again; it's very important for me." It's very important plotwise, because you kind of look at the hero's journey and things like this, the return home was a very important part of it, but beyond that, you know, these are about characters; great stories are about great characters, and we love both of these characters; they needed to meet up again. And that was something that I got to do.
I have to say, if this was George R.R. Martin, he would have killed off Tam al'Thor.
Yes, yes. Yes, he probably would have forced Rand to kill Tam, or you know, he would have....yeah, George really likes his body counts. He likes killing people in very unexpected ways...
I mean, these two series are sort of parallel, in my mind. It's almost like, sort of, I don't even...Star Trek and Star Wars.
Yes. No, no...they are very similar. Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin were friends. In fact, Robert Jordan has a cover blurb on the first George R.R. Martin book, Game of Thrones. It says, you know, Robert Jordan recommending this book, and they were friends, and they kind of had parallel careers, and Robert Jordan is more on the kind of epic side, like Tolkien, with this sort of, you know, Grand Quest, and Martin is more what we call the heroic side, which is you know, gritty characters living in a really sometimes dark world, and fighting for survival, and there are two kind of archetypes in the fantasy genre that are both very important, and we've had them all along, and they're great writers in both traditions. They're kind of parallel in that way.
Do you have any advice for George R.R. Martin, because I know people are like, "Don't..." And it's horribly insensitive. People are like, "Please! We can't go through this again! Don't die in the middle!"
[laughs] Well, you know, I saw George last week. He seemed to be very healthy and nice. He was eating some Italian food at the time, so that may not be the....but I'm not one to speak; I like my Italian food too. No, George is awesome; I think he's going to be just fine. He's having the time of his life. He's got his show on, and things like that, so I think you guys are going to be fine. I think George is going to finish his series. He looks really excited, and he looks really good.
Brandon started the event by reading the scene of Talmanes riding to the rescue of Caemlyn. He mentioned that he has always appreciated the relationship between Talmanes and Mat, and so he was excited to see so much from Talmanes in RJ's prologue. He said Talmanes' prologue appearance is one of his favorites.
He chose to read the Wind scene at the beginning of Chapter One as well, because the wind followed the route of the three ta'veren on their journey. It is a scene that is symbolic of the series, and very special to him just as it is to the fans.
After the short reading, we moved on to the Q&A.
I tried to avoid talking about this much before because I don't want you to focus on what's Brandon and what's RJ, but now that it's all out, I do have a little more freedom. One thing is that early when I went to Charleston, I felt RJ was always adding characters, so I didn't want to add too many. I wanted to show something happening at the Black Tower, so Androl became my character that I took and expanded on from minor to main character. Androl himself and his relationship with Pevara was me. I felt the series needed it, and Iâ€™ve always wanted an Asha'man to play with, so to speak.
More generally, for The Gathering Storm I have said RJ worked a lot on Egwene's viewpoints. Not as much on Rand. Rand was more me, Egwene was more RJ. In Towers of Midnight, RJ worked a lot on Mat and not much on Perrin. So if it's Mat, it's more likely to be RJ. If it's Perrin, it's more likely to be me. In A Memory of Light he worked mostly on beginning and end, not much on the middle. Merrilor and the last few chapters are a lot of RJ. In between, it's a lot more me.
Let me start by saying that if they hadn't been happy, it wouldn't be in the book. But anything where you work with an editorial team, you'd show them a scene, and they may say that's great, or they may say that it doesn't feel right or wouldn't be a good fit for the story. And sometimes you'll say "I'll change it" or "let me finish this draft, and we'll see what it looks like at the end". As far as the gateways, I felt it wouldn't be realistic otherwise. I've wanted to do with gateways since I was a kid, doing things like I showed in the book. If I had them, what would I do with them? I asked this when I was a kid, so there was a lot that I wanted to do with gateways that were in my own notes that I wanted to do that I couldn't do in my own books, so I stayed away from things that the Wheel of Time had done. So when I got to write WoT I broke out those files. The gloves were off; it was time to do things that I wanted to do but didn't want to rip off the Wheel of Time. At the end of the day, I convinced them to do it. They kept saying "they're all over the place!" so I said "if you could use them, you'd use them a lot". I didn't intend it to be a shout out of any kind, it's things I've wanted to do with gateways for like 15 years. It wasn't a shout out to the fandom. It's been an interesting experience. A lot of people think that I just wrote what the fans thought, but it's things that I felt the characters and the world would do, and if the fans happened to have talked about it, it's because it's what I thought would happen. In fact, as I wrote the books, I read very little of the fandom in order to prevent those exact thoughts from taking root.
During and after the signing, we had the discussion with Brandon about Dannil Lewin. Originally, Dannil had actually gone with Rand, Perrin, and Mat from the Two Rivers on their journey, and played a major role in events of book 3 or 4. In the end, Harriet convinced RJ that it may be better without Dannil, so some of Dannil's comments in A Memory of Light are a shout out to that of sorts. Just a fun story I thought you all might find interesting.
(Prefaced his answer by reminding everyone to avoid spoiler questions, and made it clear that this one did not cross that line) When I began to work on the books, I felt that with each book, it seemed that Robert Jordan usually took a side character and made them more of a main character. As I was outlining the series, I decided I wanted to take a side character and make them into more of a main character, but there wasn't a specific person in the notes designated to do that with. But I felt that we really needed somebody at the Black Tower, because of all the things going on at that time in the notes, and we needed another viewpoint there.
During my second trip to Charleston, this would be April/May of 2008, we used big sheets of butcher paper, outlining what was going on with these as a visual aid. I wanted an Asha'man to have a sequence of major viewpoints. Maria and Alan, who were Robert Jordan's assistants, and are now Harriet's assistants, chatted about it a moment and said you should use Androl, because there's not a lot about him, he's pretty much a blank slate and you can go wherever you want with him, which was really exciting for me. I then pitched the Talent of gateways for him, and they liked that.
Shortly after I got home, I got in the mail a printout or photocopies, of magazine or book pages from Harriet about leatherworking, and she had written on it, "I know that Jim had planned to use this in the book somewhere, is there anywhere that you can fit it in". Well I'm developing this character, let's make him a leatherworker. So I used that in building the personality of who this character was, and in that way, there was some of Robert Jordan in the character, even though I was taking a blank slate and going my own way with him. And that's where Androl came from for the last three books.
Can I take the first question?
Yes, go for the first one.
The first question, simply illustrates the importance, as every sister of the Brown Ajah knows, of reading the glossaries.
I'm not going to give you a very good answer on the other one either. The reason being, we try to keep away from saying too much about what Robert Jordan did, and what I did. Particularly while there are people who haven't read the books yet. Maybe in a year or two we can start being more open about these things, but right now, I don't want people reading the books and focusing on "Was this Jim, was that Brandon?" and things like that. The only answer I can give to questions like that is every scene is 100% Robert Jordan, and 100% me.
"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.
Was the Last Battle chapter in A Memory of Light 190 pages long because that was how Jordan wanted it?
No, Brandon made this decision himself because he felt like none of the characters could put their weapons down during this stretch, so he wanted the reader to be in the same predicament and not be able to put the book down.
We went out to the signing, and it was overwhelmingly crowded without being oppressive. The questions and answers were almost identical to those asked at other signings, as my fellow keepers have already reported on. No outriggers, WoT encyclopedia next year, and stories about the notes and the writing process.
The most interesting piece was on Androl, who was almost wholly Sanderson's creation. Jordan had many view points at the Tower, and Sanderson collapsed it into one, giving the soldier a power that Sanderson wished had been in WoT since his youth. Apparently, Jordan had a book of leather working he had intended to use somehow, and Sanderson gave that skill to his character in homage.
Vora's sa'angreal—was it always in the notes that it didn't have the buffer against over-drawing?
Yes, that was always its setup according to the notes, though Brandon gets credit for naming the thing.
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.
Brandon also indicated that he felt selfish about asking if he could create a new character or work with a character which was mostly his own creation for the books. Harriet immediately shushed him for hinting that he was selfish for thinking such a thing, then Brandon continued to tell of the creation of Androl, which allowed him to play with the magic in ways he'd hoped (fannishly) to explore (i.e. Portals). Harriet also provided Brandon with a folder about how leathermaking works in Randland which was perfectly timed to provide Androl with more depth as a character.
Two of the major character deaths in the final book were not in Jim's notes. One (Bela's) was mandated by Harriet. Brandon did not (and has not, to my knowledge) divulged which one was his choice.
Thank you so much for AMOL. I cried, I laughed many times, I feel a sense of loss at it being over, which is all to say I will reread it many times in the years to come.
Have you addressed anywhere any of the criticisms for plot points that have popped up in reviews and on fan sites? Would you be willing to address any? For example Padan Fain's being something new that had never been in the Pattern before and yet dying before having a final confrontation with Rand or the Dark One? The TOR reviewer agreed with this point and a few others.
I will try to get to some of these questions in a spoiler-filled AMA in a few weeks, once more have read the book.
Thanks for the kind words.
Sort of in line with this. On page 357 of AMoL when Cadsuane says "you have cracks in you..." Was that a reference to how you felt about the final copies of the series?
I think you did a wonderful job, but obviously it was different than it had been originally intended.
Sorry for the late reply.
I didn't write it that way intentionally, but you can never tell what the subconscious is working into a story.
No worries. I was a week after you, so it's NBD. Thanks for the answer, and thanks, so very much, for the books.
Thanks for signing this and addressing my question in Atlanta!
For the readers following along, I printed out my comment and Sanderson's reddit post above and he was awesome and humble enough to sign the print out AND TO ANSWER MY SPOILERED OBJECTION! I will put the few points from your answer paraphrased for our and the communities future reference spoiled below:
Harriet also signed the comment which I feel is very fitting and thank you Harriet so much for being unified with Brandon on his work and your husband's.
I am very much more satisfied now than before you answered me verbally Brandon, thank you again so much. Keep being awesome.
Can you tell us one scene that RJ worked on outside of the prologue and epilogue?
Yes. He wrote Moiraine's dialogue at the, um....
...at the Merrilor meeting?
At the Merrilor meeting.
My question is, are you going to tell which scenes are entirely yours and which are entirely Jordan's?
I'm avoiding a lot of detail until people have a chance to read the books. I'll repeat what I said before. In The Gathering Storm, if it was Egwene, a lot of those scenes were Robert Jordan. If it was Rand, a lot of those scenes were me. In Towers of Midnight, if it was Mat, a lot of those scenes were Jordan, and if it was Perrin, it was more me. Mat in The Gathering Storm was me. The Mat in Towers of Midnight was more Jordan, but a few scenes were me.
I can spin this into a larger story. I've been reading the books for 23 years. When I picked up the series, I had read Eye of the World 8 or 9 times. When each of us read a book, we bring something to it and reinforce that when we read. I have a friend who insists Thom Merrilin doesn't have a moustache. I can point out the page where it says he does and my friend says, "That line doesn't exist in my copy." This is part of the power of fiction. This is what I love about fiction. We write a script which you direct in your head. Readers have different perspectives on how much freedom they have for changing that. I say you have line item editing capability—you change it how you want and that's how I've always read.
When I came on this project, I had a lot of baggage—17 years of baggage, and I had to have some of it beaten out of me! There are various things, like some of my pronunciations. There are other things, like Tar Valon. I did not view the bridges as being as big as they are. From my perspective, you can stand on one side and see the other. No, they're like 3 miles long! They're just enormous. They are things like that I've imagined since my youth. There are some characters I interpret a certain way, and I don't think others would interpret them that way. I've tried to interpret the characters, I believe, the way Robert Jordan did, but we can argue all day on how he interpreted them, and that's what I think people don't understand. We can have a distinct argument on how he interpreted and we would both be right.
I interpreted Mat a certain way and I believe I got better at writing Mat as I went along. Mat was a really hard character because he's so complicated. What's so hard about him is that, from a narrative, he's one of the few characters in WoT whose thoughts and actions are at a disconnect. Perrin, the way he thinks and acts are in line. He doesn't [do] the same thing Mat does, where he has this big thing in his head and opens his mouth and a completely different thing comes out, and they're both hilarious. But they're at a contrast with each other in their hilarity. And this is something where if you read WoT, you see Jordan develop this character and come up with this sort of awesomeness that is Mat. And it took some writing for me to get Mat right.
How much of the story in the last three books were things Brandon had to do, and how much was laid out by Robert Jordan?
It's really hard at this point for me to even sometimes remember, because I've been working on it for five years now. But, a lot of the big touchstone moments, he had mentioned in his notes. Now, when I mention the notes, we have the 32,000 pages, that is obviously too much to work with. And most of that was notes for previous novels. The assistants came up with 200 pages for me, that were focused on this book. That became the core of what I worked with to make these three novels, or this book, because it's still kind of one book in my head.
And of those 200 pages, there were about a hundred pages of actual written material that he'd done. And about a hundred pages of Q&As with his assistants regarding scenes that needed to be written, or where characters needed to end up and things like that.
I would say in a given scene, there's me and there's Robert Jordan in basically everything. But, if you want something a little more specific, in Gathering Storm, Egwene's plot line, he had a lot done for. For Rand's plot line, it was more me. For Towers of Midnight, Mat's plot line he'd done a lot on, Perrin's plot line was more me. And for the last book, the beginning and the end, he'd done a lot of work on, and the middle was more me.
Who was Hinderstap?
Hinderstap was me, that was one of my additions. Entered in because Harriet actually said, we need things to be scarier, it's the end of the world. Come up with some really cool bubbles of evil, Brandon. And here are some examples of things that Robert Jordan came up with. Be freaky. And I did my best.
Egwene, was that your idea or Robert Jordan's?
I haven't been telling people about that one specifically. Almost all the deaths in the book were RJ's instructions, but I did choose a few of them. So, it could been either one of us.
Was it your idea for the dead mule in the last book, or was it Robert Jordan’s?
That was his idea.
Well he had one set of dead mules, I didn't know if you wanted to add yours and become a Southern writer too?
Well I can be a partial one.
In book 6 or 7 when Moiraine gets thrown through the portal, was it RJ's plan to bring her back in Towers of Midnight?
Yes, he actually wrote most of the scenes that take place in the Tower of Ghenjei and afterwards.
Androl—is he yours?
He is mine. From the beginning, I asked Team Jordan if there was an Asha'man that had a blank slate that I could take over, because I wanted to have a viewpoint in the Black Tower, and I wanted to do some of these things with gateways.
And the decision to exchange the bodies at the end?
That was his (Robert Jordan). And it began with the crossing of the balefire streams, way back when, and continued on through the series up to here. He actually wrote those scenes at the end himself.
Was Robert Jordan's original draft of that as bloody as the way it came out?
A lot of the deaths, he didn't write any of the actual death scenes, he just indicated who lived and died. I just upped the ante somewhat. I wasn't going to have the Last Battle come without substantial losses, and so, where he didn't instruct me, this person lives, I had some measure of, yeah. And so, I did up the body count. I know he was planning to kill off a number of characters, but he also, killing people, and letting them stay dead was not one of Jim's strong suits. He was very fond of his characters, and I know there were lots that he was planning to kill. I don't think that he would have killed as many as I, maybe. I don't know. It's what we felt the story needed, in talking to Harriet and Team Jordan. Maybe he would have. I did what I thought made the best story.
What about Cadsuane being summoned to become Amyrlin?
Cadsuane was going to give up the three Oaths, and go live forever. Cadsuane's fate was not my idea.
Two words that I find very evocative are Dreadbane and Balescream. What's yours?
You can usually guess that if it's not Old Tongue, it's probably me.
I mean what's your favorite word? What's the word you find most evocative from the series?
In the series. Let me see. Hmm. I've always liked the term Heartstone. I would think. That one is very evocative to me.
Re: Deaths of major characters. His statement was that Jordan had left ending situations for nearly every character and that, with only two exceptions, if Jordan didn't specify, they had the character live. He confirmed one of those exceptions was Harriet's decision re: Siuan. He did not reveal the other.
Jordan made the decision of the True Nature of the Dark One. He said that straight out. He and Harriet rewrote and developed the battle the way it turned out, with the possible futures, etc. But the true key of the Dark ONe being needed for the world and Rand having to discover that and just restore the prison were Jordan's directive.
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.
Was anything new revealed during the Q&A?
He said Androl was strictly him, no sorta fan shout out. But as fans, we all sorta have those things we see as "should be" possible. And for Brandon, Androl was like playing Portal. That's why Androl came across as such a real character. Androl Is Brandon thrown into the world.
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.
When you were working on A Memory of Light, I know Mr. Jordan had the fates of most, if not all of the characters written down. Were there any characters where you got to decide the fate of, either in A Memory of Light or the previous two books?
Yes, there were some. For example, Pevara's fate isn't mentioned in the notes, which is why I felt all right co-opting her for the Black Tower storyline, which was mostly mine. Siuan's fate wasn't mentioned in the notes, save for the rescue of Egwene from the White Tower. Harriet made the decision on how her story was to play out.
What was your favorite scene in any of your published books that you had to eventually cut from the book?
Perrin traveling the Ways in A Memory of Light.
What?! Can you tell us about that scene? This is the first I've heard of it. That sounds awesome.
Perrin gathered a team and traveled the Ways in order to try to close the Waygate in Camelyn from behind. It was determined that this section, among having other issues, was not needed for the final book and was distracting from the momentum toward the Last Battle.
So there I was, sitting beside Robert Jordan's computer, looking at printouts of his notes, and feeling supremely overwhelmed. You might wonder what was in those notes. Well, in preparing to write this piece, I went to Harriet and (as I'd often promised fans) asked if it would be possible to release the notes, or to at least speak specifically about their contents. (I still someday want to do a series of blog posts where I take scenes from the notes, then compare them to scenes in the finished books, with a commentary on why I made the decisions to change them that I did.)
In response to my question, Harriet pointed out that work on the encyclopedia of the Wheel of Time is still in progress. She and Team Jordan haven't yet finished deciding what tidbits from the notes they want to include in the encyclopedia, and she thinks now is not the time to release them. (Or even for me to talk about specifics.)
Therefore, I can't talk about many specific scenes. Instead, then, I want to talk about the general process—which might be of more interest to many of you. You see, as I've explained before, the "notes" aren't what people assume. I was handed two hundred pages of material by Harriet, and this is what I read that first night. Those pages included:
Written sections by Robert Jordan: Robert Jordan was a "discovery"-type writer, meaning he tended to explore where he wanted his story to go by doing the actual writing. He didn't work from an outline. Harriet has explained that he had a few goalposts he was aiming for, big events he knew would happen somewhere in the story. He didn't know exactly how those would play out until he wrote them, but he knew what they were. Otherwise, he would write and explore, working his way toward his goalposts and discovering many parts of his story as he worked.
Robert Jordan was also not a linear writer. From what I can judge by the notes, he was one of the relatively more rare breed of writers who work on a scene as it interests them, no matter where it may be in the story. It seems like he'd often dig out a file and write a short time on it, then stick that file back into the notes. The next day, he'd work on a different place in the story. It's possible that as he started work on a book in earnest, however, he progressed in a more linear fashion. The largest chunk of actual writing he left behind was for the prologue of A Memory of Light, after all.
However, from what Harriet has told me, he did not show his notes to people, nor did he show them early drafts. Even Harriet often wouldn't get to see early drafts—she says what he gave her was often draft twelve or thirteen.
In the stack of notes I was given were all of the scenes he'd actually written for A Memory of Light. Together, these were about a hundred pages. I can't tell you everything that was in there, not yet. I can speak about the things I've said before, however. One thing in these notes was the ending. (This became the epilogue of A Memory of Light, though I did add a couple of scenes to it.) Another was his unfinished prologue. (I split this into three chunks to become the prologues for the three books, though I did add quite a few scenes to these prologues as well. Scenes he'd finished, mostly finished, or had a loose first draft of include: the farmer watching the clouds approach in The Gathering Storm, the scene with Rand seen through the eyes of a sul'dam from the prologue of The Gathering Storm, the scene with the Borderlanders on the top of the tower in Towers of Midnight, and the scene with Isam in the Blight at the start of A Memory of Light.)
Also included in this stack of scenes were a smattering of fragments, including the scene where Egwene gets a special visitor in The Gathering Storm. (Dress colors are discussed.) The scene in Towers of Midnight where two people get engaged. (The one that ends with a character finding a pot in the river—which is a piece I added.) And the scene at the Field of Merrilor inside the tent where someone unexpected arrives. (Much of that sequence was outlined in rough form.) I've tried to be vague as to not give spoilers.
Q&A sessions with Robert Jordan's assistants: Near the end, Mr. Jordan was too weak to work on the book directly—but he would do sessions with Maria, Alan, Harriet, or Wilson where he'd tell them about the book. They recorded some of these, and then transcribed them for me. Most of these focus on someone asking him, "What happens to so-and-so." He'd then talk about their place in the ending, and what happened to them after the last book. A lot of these focus on major plot structures. ("So tell me again what happens when Siuan sneaks into the White Tower to try to find Egwene.") Or, they focus on the climax of the final book. The bulk of this information gave me a general feeling for the ending itself, and a read on where people ended up after the books. A lot of the "How do they get from the end of Knife of Dreams to the climax of A Memory of Light?" wasn't discussed.
Selections from Robert Jordan's notes: As I've mentioned before, Robert Jordan's larger notes files are huge and have a haphazard organization. These are different from the notes I was given—the two hundred-page stack. My stack included the pages that Team Jordan thought most important to the writing of the book. They did also give me a CD, however, with everything on it—thousands and thousands of pages of materials.
Though you might be salivating over these, the bulk are not things many of you would find interesting. Each version of the glossaries is included, for example, so Mr. Jordan knew what they'd said about given characters in given books. (These are identical to the ones printed in the backs of the books.) There are notes for many of the books, things Mr. Jordan used while writing a given novel in the series, but much of this ended up in the books and would not offer any revelations to you. There is, however, a great deal of interesting worldbuilding, some of which ended up in the books—but there's also quite a bit here that will probably end up in the encyclopedia. There were also notes files on given characters, with the viewings/prophesies/etc. about them that needed to be fulfilled, along with notes on their attitude, things they needed to accomplish yet in the series, and sometimes background tidbits about their lives.
Maria and Alan had spent months meticulously combing through the notes and pulling out anything they thought I might need. This was the last chunk of my two hundred pages of notes, though I was free to spend time combing through the larger grouping of files—and I did this quite a bit.
To be continued.
During this second Charleston visit, I sat down with Alan, Maria, and Harriet to outline my thoughts on where the last books should go. I asked for big sheets of butcher paper, and upon this I started writing down characters, plots, goals, and sequences as headings. Then, we brainstormed answers to holes. I often presented my (somewhat daring) plans for sequences Robert Jordan had not outlined. I think a lot of the things I suggested were surprising to Team Jordan—and made them worried.
My argument was this, however: Robert Jordan would not have kept the last book stale. He wouldn't have done everything as expected. He wouldn't have flatlined the character arcs, he wouldn't have stopped the worldbuilding. If we played this book safe, we'd end up with a bland climax to the series. Harriet agreed, and told me to proceed with some of these plans—but with the warning that as editor, she would read and see if I pulled off the sequences. If I did, they'd go in the books. If I didn't, we'd remove them.
This ended up working really well. It allowed me to exercise artistic freedom, driving the books in directions I felt they needed to go without limitations. Granted, I had a personal rule—I didn't contradict Robert Jordan's previous books, and if he had finished a scene in the notes, we were going to use it.
This might make it sound like I was trying to steer the books away from his vision. Nothing is further from the truth. In rereading his series, in getting close to his notes, I felt like I had a vision for the types of emotional beats Robert Jordan was striving for in the last book. These emotional beats required surprises, revelations, and transformations—I felt like I truly had the pulse of this series. My goal was to fulfill his vision. However, in order to do this, I needed to exercise my artistic muscles, as he would have exercised his own. I had to allow the creative writer in me to create, to tell stories.
It meant approaching these books as a writer, not a ghostwriter. Harriet understood this; she hired me rather than a ghostwriter because we had notes and fragments of scenes—not an almost-completed novel. However, she was also very right to tell me that she would act as a stabilizing force. Letting my creativity out of its proverbial Pandora's box meant walking a dangerous line, with things that were too "Brandon" potentially consuming the series. I didn't want to let this happen, and Harriet was the failsafe.
This is why some sequences, like the "River of Souls" sequence that became part of the Unfettered anthology, needed to be deleted from the books. It's not the only one. Others include a sequence where Perrin went into the Ways.
During the process of writing these books, all members of Team Jordan offered commentary on every aspect—but a certain specialization fell out naturally. Harriet did line edits and focused on character voice. (She famously told me, regarding one of my very early Aviendha scenes, "Brandon, you've written an almost perfect Elayne." It took me a few more tries to get that one right.) Maria would watch for continuity with other books. Alan would pin me down on timeline, troop movements, and tactics.
To be continued.
When Harriet asked me about splitting the book, she wondered if there was a natural breaking point. I told her breaking it once wouldn't work—but breaking it twice might. I didn't feel A Memory of Light would work as two volumes. Looking at my outline and what I needed to accomplish, two books would either mean one very long book and one normal-sized one, or two books split equally. Both would have been awkward. The former because doing a double-sized Wheel of Time book would have the same problems as just printing the original 2000-page novel. 1400 pages isn't much better in publishing terms. 1000, like some of the Wheel of Time books, already pushes against those limits.
The second option—two 1000-page books—was even more of a problem. If we cut it in the middle like that, we'd get the first half of all four plot sequences I mentioned above—but none of their climaxes. This (writing one book as a setup book, with the payoffs mostly happening in another book) was an experiment that Robert Jordan had already attempted, and he had spoken of the problems it created. He was a better writer than I am, and if he couldn't accomplish such a split, I didn't want to attempt it.
Instead, I felt that splitting the book as three books would allow us to have complete arcs in each one. Two, actually, for each of The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight—followed by the climactic book, A Memory of Light. So I set out to divide the plots and decide what would go where.
I knew fans would be skeptical of me taking over the project in the first place, and I knew they'd be more skeptical when we announced a three-book split. That meant I wanted my most dynamic plots in the first book. (I knew the ending would carry its own book, and was never worried about that one being dynamic enough.) In addition, I wanted to split the four sequences—Rand/Egwene/Mat/Perrin—so that we had at least one in each book that Robert Jordan had done a lot of work on. Rand and Perrin had much less material finished for them than Mat and Egwene. So it was either Rand/Egwene or Perrin/Mat for the first book.
It soon became clear that I needed to lead with Rand/Egwene. They mirrored each other in very interesting ways, with Rand's narrative descent and Egwene's narrative ascent. When Rand was being contemplative, Egwene's plot had action—and vice versa. While my personal favorite of the four is Perrin's arc, I felt his involved a lot of buildup and some less straightforward plotting as we pushed toward his climactic moments. I also decided that the plots would work with shaving off some of what Rand/Egwene were doing to save it for the second book, but I couldn't do the same as easily for Perrin/Mat.
A book was forming in my head. Rand's absolute power driving him toward destruction and Egwene's specific lack of power elevating her toward rebuilding the White Tower. We needed a Mat section—I didn’t want him absent for the book—so Hinderstap was my creation, devised after Harriet asked me to be "more disturbing and horrifying" in regards to the bubbles of evil that were coming into the book.
The Egwene plot was an absolute delight to work on. Of all the things that Robert Jordan had been building for this last book (including the final chapter) before he died, I feel this was the most fully formed. Egwene's rise and the Seanchan assault played together perfectly in classic Wheel of Time fashion, and I got to participate in unique ways, working with his notes and instructions to craft his plotlines exactly as I feel he envisioned them.
One large change I did make was splitting the Egwene dinner with Elaida into two distinct scenes, instead of one single scene. I felt the pacing worked much better this way, and it complemented the Rand sequence better with the first dinner happening, Egwene getting sent to further work, then a climactic second dinner happening where I could really bring about Egwene's victory, all without her ever channeling.
In the Egwene sequence, I got to do the most truly collaborative work with Robert Jordan. In other places, I inserted scenes he'd written. In many others, I had to go with my gut, lacking instruction. With Egwene, I had a blend of explanations of scenes, written scenes, and Q&A prompts from Robert Jordan that made me feel as if I were working directly with him to bring about the sequence. If you want to see a full sequence in the books that I think is the closest to the way he'd have done it if he could have, I'd suggest the Egwene sequence in The Gathering Storm. (And beyond. Most of what we have for her was by his direction, inclusive of the events leading up to—and including—Merrilor.)
I have a fondness for Aviendha, my personal favorite of the female leads in the Wheel of Time. (My favorite among the male leads is Perrin.) I wanted to see a return of Avi in the last books, as I felt we just hadn't had enough of her lately. I also have an interesting relationship with Nynaeve, a character who I (as a young man) resented. My opinion of her is the one that grew the most during the course of my reading as just a fan, and by Knife of Dreams I absolutely loved her. I knew that with all of the crowding in the last books, she actually wouldn't have a large part to play in the Last Battle. (Very few would be able to do so, beyond Rand/Egwene/Perrin/Mat.) Therefore, it was important to me to give her a solid and interesting sequence of scenes through both The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight. Her raising was not instructed by the notes, but was something I was insistent be in the books. (And along those lines, one thing Harriet insisted happen—and I was all too ready to oblige—was a meeting between Rand and his father.)
To be continued.
Perrin is my favorite character in the series, and has been since I was a youth. Like many readers, I was frustrated by his choices through the later books, though the writer in me really appreciated Robert Jordan's skillful guidance of the character. The problems Perrin confronted (sometimes poorly) highlighted his uncomfortable relationship with the wolves, his unwillingness to cut himself a break, and his ability to devote himself so utterly to one task that everything else vanished. (As a note, I feel this is one of the major things that made me empathize with Perrin for all those years. Of the main characters, he is the only artist. However, he's an artist like me—a focused project builder. A craftsman.)
Though I wanted to be careful not to overdo the concept, one of my goals in these last few books was to bring back ideas and conflicts from the first books—creating parallels and emphasizing the cyclical nature of the Wheel of Time. Again, this was dangerous. I didn't want these books to become a series of in-jokes, homages, and repetitions.
However, there are places where it was not only appropriate, but vital that we return to these themes. I felt one of those involved the Whitecloaks and Perrin, specifically the two Children of the Light he had killed during his clash with them in the very first book. This was a tricky sequence to plot. I wanted Perrin to manifest leadership in a way different from Rand or Egwene. Robert Jordan instructed that Perrin become a king, and I loved this plot arc for him—but in beginning it with the Whitecloaks, I threatened to leave Perrin weak and passive as a character. Of all the sequences in the books, I struggled with this one the most—mostly because of my own aspirations, goals, and dreams for what Perrin could become.
His plot is my favorite of the four for those reasons.
I had other goals for Perrin in this book. His experiences in the Wolf Dream needed to return, I felt, and push toward a final climax in the Last Hunt. This meant returning to a confrontation with Slayer, a mirrored character to Perrin with a dual nature. I wanted to highlight Perrin's instinctive use of his powers, as a contrast to the thoughtful, learned use of power represented by Egwene. People have asked if I think Perrin is better at Tel'aran'rhiod than Egwene. I don't think he is, the balefire-bending scene notwithstanding. They represent two sides of a coin, instinct and learning. In some cases Perrin will be more capable, and in others Egwene will shine.
The forging of Perrin's hammer, the death of Hopper, and the wounding of Perrin in the leg (which is mythologically significant) were in my narrative plan for him from the get-go. However, weaving them all together involved a lot of head/wall-bashing. I wanted a significance to Perrin's interactions with the Way of the Leaf as well, and to build a rapport between him and Galad—in my reads of the characters, I felt they would make for unlikely friends.
Of all the major plot sequences in the books, Perrin's was the one where I had the most freedom—but also the most danger of straying too far from Robert Jordan's vision for who the character should be. His instructions for Perrin focused almost entirely on the person Perrin would be after the Last Battle, with little or no direction on how to bring him there. Perrin was fully in my hands, and I wanted to take extra care to guide my favorite character toward the ending.
I will note, by the way, that Verin's interaction with Egwene in The Gathering Storm was my biggest surprise from the notes. My second biggest was the Thom/Moiraine engagement. Robert Jordan wrote that scene, and I was surprised to read it. (As I said, though I loved and had read the books, there are plenty of fans who were bigger fans than myself—and to them, this was no surprise.) I didn't pick up the subtle hints of a relationship between the two of them until my reread following my getting the notes.
Robert Jordan had written much of Mat's plot, and left instructions on much of the rest. My challenge with Mat in this book, then, wasn't to complete his arc—which was quite good. It was to do a better job with Mat than I had in the previous book.
In order to do Mat right, I went back to Robert Jordan's writing. This time, I dissected Mat, looking at him as a craftsman. I saw a depth of internal narrative that was unlike anything I'd analyzed before. Of all the Wheel of Time characters, Mat is the least trustworthy narrator. What he thinks, feels, and does are sometimes three very different things. His narrative itself is filled with snark and beautifully clever lines, but a relative few of those actually leave his lips. The harder he tries to do something, often the worse it turns out for him. Mat's at his best when he lets instinct lead, regardless of what his internal monologue says.
This makes him very tricky to write, and is why my initial gut instinct on how to do him was wrong. I think for a lot of Wheel of Time readers, Mat is the big surprise in the series. The sometimes snarky, but often grumpy sidekick from the first two books transforms into a unique blend of awesomeness I haven't found in any other story.
I feel that my stab at writing Mat in Towers of Midnight is far better than it was in The Gathering Storm, though I'm not sure I got him right until A Memory of Light. I know some fans will disagree that I ever did get him right, but I am pleased with—and comfortable with—the Mat of these latter two books. Though, of course, having Robert Jordan's more detailed instructions for Mat in these books does help.
To be continued.
Towers of Midnight: What did I learn?
Set Your Sights High
I've never been one to dodge a challenge. However, after failing to do The Way of Kings right in 2002, I was timid about tackling complex narratives across many, many viewpoints. Towers of Midnight marked the largest-scale book I'd ever attempted, with the most complexity of viewpoints, the greatest number of distinct and different scenes to balance, and the most ambitious forms of storytelling. Aviendha's trip through the glass pillars was the most audacious thing I believe I pitched at Team Jordan, and was one of the things about which they were the most skeptical. Perrin's balance between action and inaction risked having him descend into passiveness.
I worked on the new version of The Way of Kings during this time, in 2009–10, when I was also working on Towers of Midnight. I doubt I will ever be more busy than I was in those two years, tackling two of the biggest books of my career at the same time. However, during this time I entered a place in my writing where something clicked, dealing with the next stage of my writing career. I'd always wanted to master the complex epic—my favorite stories of all time fit this mold. Before this, however, I'd done very few sequels—and Towers of Midnight was the most complicated sequel I'm ever likely to do.
I learned a great deal about myself during this period, and the results are on the pages of these two books, Towers of Midnight and The Way of Kings.
When I launched into this book, I'd just finished Towers of Midnight and was in a very "Perrin is awesome" mood. I wanted to keep writing Perrin, so I did his sequence for the book first. It worked, to an extent. I love the Perrin parts of this book. However, by the end—and after finishing the other viewpoints—we found that the book had way too much Perrin in it. Cutting the sequence where Perrin travels through the Ways to try to close the Caemlyn Waygate from behind was one method of balancing this out. The sequence was also cut because Harriet felt I'd gone too far in the direction of returning to previous themes in the series, bringing back something better left alone so we could focus on the Last Battle. (In addition, Maria thought my descriptions of the Ways just didn't fit the story.)
This was a 17,000-word sequence (and it ended with the Ogier rescuing Perrin and his company from the Black Wind, driving it off with their song). I love the sequence, but unlike the sequence with Bao (the deleted scenes named "River of Souls" and included in the Unfettered anthology) it is not canon. It couldn't happen for a multitude of reasons, and got trimmed.
Otherwise, Perrin ended up as I wanted him. A lot of people were surprised that I knocked him out of the fighting for a big chunk of the Last Battle, but I felt it appropriate. The fighting armies were Mat's show, and Perrin's focus for the fighting was to join Rand and protect him in the Wolf Dream. There was so much else going on, I decided to bench him for a chunk of the warfare—and I'm pleased with the result. It brought real impact to the Slayer fight, where Perrin was left wounded.
There were three particular things that were quite a challenge in writing this last book. The first was how to use Rand fighting the Dark One in a way that would be interesting, visual, and powerful. The second was how to do the tactics of a large-scale battle. The final one had to do with Egwene.
In his notes, Robert Jordan was very specific about the fact that Rand and Egwene needed to almost come to blows in the lead-up to the Last Battle. He called it the grand union of the armies against Rand, whose decisions were considered too radical, too dangerous, to be allowed to proceed. Moiraine was to be the force that brought the two of them together, unifying the armies of light, cementing her importance—and showing why she needed to be rescued by Mat before the Last Battle. (There were a lot of instructions about what Moiraine was to say, and some good writing on that meeting at the Field of Merrilor.)
The burden upon me was to realistically bring Rand and Egwene to the point where the reader believed they'd fight one another—or at least go to the Last Battle separately, without cohesion—if Moiraine hadn't intervened. This was difficult. Having The Gathering Storm end on such a high note for Egwene left me struggling to figure out how, in Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light, to make her go at cross-purposes to Rand without alienating the reader from her viewpoints. I felt what she was doing was very realistic and in character for who she was, but I also knew that making the decisions she would make was going to cause some readers to be very annoyed with her.
In the end, I decided that the proper course was to let them be annoyed. The very same strength that had made Egwene shine in The Gathering Storm was also the strength that let her lead the Aes Sedai—of whom she had truly become one. The will of the Aes Sedai against the rest of the world is a major theme of the Wheel of Time, and say what you will of it, the theme is consistent—as are the characters. Egwene was at their head. Yes, I wanted her to be relatable, but I also wanted it clear that she was Aes Sedai, and she wasn't about to let someone else dominate the decisions on how to approach the Last Battle.
Robert Jordan didn't leave me a ton of direction regarding the Black Tower. There were a few gems that we knew, but in a lot of places I was left to follow my instincts regarding the plotting points he had built across the last few books. He did leave a lot of clear instructions regarding Taim, fortunately, including his backstory and instructions for a scene where Taim was named as one of the Forsaken.
Androl and Pevara
In working on the Black Tower plot, one thing I realized early on was that I wanted a new viewpoint character to be involved. One reason was that we didn't have anyone to really show the lives of the everyday members of the Black Tower. It felt like a hole in the viewpoint mosaic for the series. In addition, each Wheel of Time book—almost without exception—has either introduced a new viewpoint character or added a great deal of depth to a character who had only seen minimal use before. As we were drawing near to the end of the series, I didn't want to expand this very far. However, I did want to add at least one character across the three books I was doing.
I went to Team Jordan with the suggestion that I could fulfill both of these purposes by using one of the rank-and-file members of the Black Tower, preferably someone who wasn't a full Asha'man and was something of a blank slate. They suggested Androl. The notes were silent regarding him, and while he had been around, he so far hadn't had the spotlight on him. He seemed the perfect character to dig into.
A few more things got spun into this sequence. One was my desire to expand the usage of gateways in the series. For years, as an aspiring writer, I imagined how I would use gateways if writing a book that included them. I went so far as to include in the Stormlight Archive a magic system built around a similar teleportation mechanic. Being able to work on the Wheel of Time was a thrill for many reasons, but one big one was that it let me play with one of my favorite magic systems and nudge it in a few new directions. I've said that I didn't want to make a large number of new weaves, but instead find ways to use established weaves in new ways. I also liked the idea of expanding on the system for people who have a specific talent in certain areas of the One Power.
Androl became my gateway expert. Another vital key in building him came from Harriet, who mailed me a long article about a leatherworker she found in Mr. Jordan's notes. She said, "He was planning to use this somewhere, but we don't know where."
One final piece for his storyline came during my rereads of the series, where I felt that at times the fandom had been too down on the Red Ajah. True, they had some serious problems with their leadership in the books, but their purpose was noble. I feel that many readers wanted to treat them as the Wheel of Time equivalent of Slytherin—the house of no-goods, with every member a various form of nasty. Robert Jordan himself worked to counteract this, adding a great deal of depth to the Ajah by introducing Pevara. She had long been one of my favorite side characters, and I wanted her to have a strong plot in the last books. Building a relationship between her and Androl felt very natural to me, as it not only allowed me to explore the bonding process, but also let me work a small romance into the last three books—another thing that was present in most Wheel of Time books. The ways I pushed the Androl/Pevara bond was also something of an exploration and experiment. Though this was suggested by the things Robert Jordan wrote, I did have some freedom in how to adapt it. I felt that paralleling the wolf bond made sense, with (of course) its own distinctions.
Finding a place to put the Pevara/Androl sequence into the books, however, proved difficult. Towers of Midnight was the book where we suffered the biggest time crunch. That was the novel where I'd plotted to put most of the Black Tower sequence, but in the end it didn't fit—partially because we just didn't have time for me to write it. So, while I did finish some chapters to put there, the soul of the sequence got pushed off to A Memory of Light, if I managed to find time for it.
I did find time—in part because of cutting the Perrin sequence. Losing those 17,000 words left an imbalance to the pacing of the final book. It needed a plot sequence with more specific tension to balance out the more sweeping sequences early in the book where characters plan, plot, and argue. I was able to expand Androl/Pevara to fit this hole, and to show a lot of things I really wanted to show in the books.
Rand and Logain
I made a few interesting decisions with the Black Tower sequence. The first was to not involve Rand. Though it would have been a nice narrative balance to have Rand come save the Asha'man in contrast to them saving him in book six, I felt that Rand was riding to the rescue too often. The Black Tower was about to lose him permanently, and if its members could not face their problems on their own, then thematically they'd be left at the end of the series hampered and undermined. Beyond this, I believed that Rand's personality (as shown in earlier books) would push him to avoid being pulled into a potential trap at the Black Tower. His argument that he couldn't risk a confrontation is a good one. Androl and company had to face their problems on their own—save for the help of an Aes Sedai, another thing I felt to be thematically important.
Perhaps the most controversial decision (among Team Jordan) that I made with this sequence was to push Logain toward being a darker figure. Following his extended torture, I felt that Logain would emerge as a different person—though he'd always been somewhat dark. Some members of Team Jordan felt he was past that, and I disagreed. Logan was a false Dragon, gentled then healed, head of a group of men going insane who owed loyalty to Rand—but who rarely interacted with him. There is so much going on with this guy that he could have carried an entire series on his own.
I wanted him to wrestle with all of this. Logain's life ever since his capture way back when seemed to have been one of being shoved this way and then that. He needed to decide for himself what kind of Black Tower he was going to rule, if he was going to earn the honor of men as was promised. (And yes, this had not yet happened at the end of the series.) Logain, so far as I know, never once let go of power in the series—it was always ripped from his fingers. In this case, he was allowed to choose.
[RJ wrote the woman in the scene. I had to dig deep in the notes to figure out...] ...who this person is. It is something that I had to put together myself.
So you had to...you didn't change anything about that scene.
I don't believe that I changed anything about that scene. You will have to compare it to the original if that ever comes out in the notes—I don't know whether that's in the stuff that was released to the [library]—but I don't believe any changes were made except for perhaps proofreading and editing changes as we went through. The big changes I made to the epilogue were the addition of certain viewpoints, but were not changes to what was written. Some of these scenes we have in the epilogue were some of the cleanest scenes that we got. And sure, we had to clean them up in some ways, but I don't believe that scene had any major edits to it, but it's now been quite a long time since I worked on that scene, so take that with a caveat.
But that was one of those scenes, when I read it...now, you'll have to remember, it was 2007 when I went to Harriet's house and I got handed this stack of paper, and I sat down and I read it, and I started with that scene. That was the first thing that I read, because that was the completed—like, I wanted to read the ending, right? There was stuff written before that, but [...] the ending to me that I read started right with what you're talking about, that exact moment with him stumbling out, and the things that he's kind of mumbling, and the things that he's hearing and saying and stuff. But, you may have to—I honestly, it's so hard for me, some of these things, it's so hard for me to remember because we're going back seven years, where I started working on that outline, right after reading what he'd written—and started building it, and over the years, we get a lot of questions, was this you? was this him? I've forgotten. [laughter] Because...no, you have this whole thing and you're working on it for seven years, and what was him and what was me stopped really being that important when we're building the story. Granted, there are certain things we really wanted to preserve of his because we wanted the actual writing he completed, but you know, which themes, and which concepts—there are things where I'm like, "Oh!—I was looking back through my outline, and I'm like, "Oh, I put this in. Why did I put that in? Oh, it's because of this," and then I went back into his notes, "No wait, no he said to do that!" And he wrote that! And they blended together quite a bit. Like, that scene, over the years, I thought, "Oh, I added some stuff to that scene." And then I went back to the original when I was going to put it in, and lo and behold, I hadn't added anything to that scene, is my recollection. It was there, and I'm like, "Oh wait, no that was him, and that's what sparked me to do this other thing," which then, we turned into this other scene, and...but it gets really hard for me to parse without having, in front of me, to say, "Okay, did I change any words?" So...
What can you tell us about that woman?
That right there is one of the two main things which I have said I'm not going to say anything about. So I'm not answering...that's...that's one of the big...I feel that the notes indicated that this should be a mystery that he wanted to be left, and...things that...there are actually very few of those that we haven't said anything about, and I think this is the one that I'm just not gonna talk about. The other one of course is the pipe, and that's because we don't know. That...the woman you're talking about, I do know things about, but I'm just not...that's...you know, this is the mystery that he wanted us to have, and the pipe is another one. Those are the two big things I can't give you answers on, one because I won't, and one because...um, because I can't. The other thing I haven't been answering is I haven't been answering who made the decision on every specific character, who should live and who should die, and I don't think that focusing on that is really productive, and so I haven't been telling people who, except for one character [looks at Harriet; audience laughs] that I didn't want to die [awws], that Harriet decided needed to go, of the four-hoofed persuasion. [laughter] In general I just don't talk a lot about those, so I'll just give you a warning, those are things I'm not going to answer. I am pretty free about a lot of other things, but I don't answer those.
Without delving too much into specifics, because I'm not sure exactly what's going to end up in the encyclopedia and what's going to end up in the notes, and things like this. Without going too much into specifics, for the Last Battle itself a lot of what Robert Jordan left me are concepts: concepts on this is how I want this to feel, the big crux of the Last Battle comes down to this question, this is where someone's crowning moment is—these sorts of emotions. It was like he was laying down the emotional beats, and the actual how to put it together—a lot of that was left in my hands. He did have some brainstorms on that, but some of those brainstorms were from years ago, before he wrote... For instance, I've mentioned before that there is a brainstorm we have on "here's how Rand is going to do it"—here's a brainstorm that Robert Jordan had left. But he'd written this brainstorm around book 7 or 6 or something, and it involved the Choedan Kal—both of them. And we're like, well he obviously threw that out the window and decided not to go with that. But some of these brainstorms that he'd had, we can say, oh this is the emotional resonance he's going for. Looking at the idea between we want to have the different powers work together, to work in this way from his brainstorm, even though we can't do it in the way that he was thinking of doing it ten years ago, we can still see the sort of thing that he was going for.
And the scene that Terez mentioned at the end mentions Rand's big revelation that needed to happen so that the last moments could occur—he's reflecting on that when he comes out. And so we knew this emotional resonance that Robert Jordan wanted. And we had all these sort of other things where he talks about just the feel he wants and things like this. And so a lot of the specifics—how to put these things together—were things that I pitched to Team Jordan to fit the framework of the notes, and then we tried out and saw if they worked. Which is kinda how you do writing, at least if you're an outliner like me. I pitch ideas at myself, I build an outline out of it, and I try it out and see if it works. And what ended up in the book are the things that did work. What didn't end up in the book are the things that didn't work. For instance, "River of Souls", which was in the (Unfettered) anthology, is one of the things I mentioned—that's the sort of thing that we tried that doesn't work. And the reason a lot of times that these things are being cut is because we are striving for that balance between "let's push the story in new and innovative ways" between "let's make sure we're not straying too far from Robert Jordan's vision". And something like "River of Souls" strayed too far, and also kind of was distracting from the main point of the book—there were two big reasons to cut that sequence. But you see us doing things like that, and so the ones we end up with... A lot of these things about the actual Last Battle are me looking to put together what I feel creates the emotional resonance and the plot structure that Robert Jordan wanted for this ending.
I've said before that the main bulk of the writing we had for this last book involved three main areas: the Epilogue, the scene at the Field of Merrilor where Moiraine shows up and things like this, and the scene at the beginning in the Town, the village in the Waste—what does he call it? Does he call it the Town? The Town is what he calls it. Yeah. And those are three places where we have kind of unchanged Robert Jordan writing. Granted, all through the books, each of the books, you'll find sprinklings where I'm able to use a paragraph or two, or a page, or something from his notes that spawns a chapter, but that's where we have untouched Robert Jordan writing in this last book—I think those are the three main places.