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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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Halima is a man in a woman's body. I got Jordan to 'fess up to this one when he was talking about the new books-on-tape that will be coming out soon. He said that a male voice will read the parts that are from a man's point of view and a female voice will read the parts that are from a female character's point of view. "So, which one will read the passage from Halima's point of view?" I asked. Jordan sighed and said, "Halima's just weird." He went on to confirm that he/she is a male spirit inside a female body and suggested that he/she will change personality over time since the body affects the spirit (and vice-versa).
It seems to me that you've put up a lot of comments given the few days that has been possible. I think I'll address a few of them.
I see that someone—anonymous—uses the audio book pronunciations for a guide.
In the very beginning, the actors doing the reading got in touch with me about pronunciations, but they stopped halfway through reading The Eye of the World, and I haven't heard from them since. So I wouldn't go too much by what they use.
"The spoken word is the basis for all storytelling," he told us from his 1797 home in the historic district of Charleston, South Carolina. "My father and my uncles were storytellers. When we went fishing or hunting, there was always storytelling at night. I grew up with that oral tradition. I've always thought that my writing lends itself to being read aloud for that very reason."
We asked him about the advantages of listening to a book as opposed to reading it.
"When reading an actual book," he answered, "it's possible to skip over things. You make connections in your head, and you find you're not registering every word. But when it's read to you, there's a difference. You hear every word."
"It was my suggestion in the first place," Jordan admitted, "that we have a male and a female actor to do this, a woman to read the female point of view and a man to read the male point of view. And we lucked out in that they both do voices as well. So it is as close as I can come to having an ensemble doing the reading."
In addition, Jordan's Western novel, Cheyenne Raiders, available as a digital download from Books on Tape, is read by Michael Kramer.
My job has constantly evolved. First there was fanmail and filing. Then the audiobook project got underway, and someone had to go through and mark all of the changes in point of view so that Michael Kramer could read the male POVs and Kate Reading could read the female ones. Jim decided that I could do that, so, much to my delight, I was getting paid to read The Wheel of Time. I was in hog heaven, of course. At that time, Jim was finishing up A Crown of Swords, and when the proofs came in, Harriet suggested that I assist in going through them, but Jim said no, he didn't want to spoil me. I was crushed. Over the next year or so, though, my job broadened. He gave me the in-house glossary to tidy up, and some of his notes to consolidate. He also would give me lists of questions like "Has character A ever met Character B?" and "Give me three examples of character C's speech" and "Find me all of the information you can on what a baby feels as he's being born." By the time he had The Path of Daggers ready to give to Harriet for editing, I had convinced him that I could help with maintaining our house glossary going forward, and he decided that I would get the pages at the same time Harriet did. Harriet encouraged me to edit as well, and I would do that and pass the pages on to her. I don't know if any of my edits made it into the final book, but Harriet did begin recommending me for freelance editing.
I did other things as well. Jim had a massive personal library, and mentioned that he would love for it to be cataloged; I cobbled together a classification system, using WordPerfect mail merge. I also cataloged his music collection, and kept the existing catalog of movies updated. I did shopping for him, arranged appointments, worked on the Wizards of the Coast RPG and the New Spring comics. When the new cat went missing, I made and put up posters in the neighborhood (we found her hiding under the house, eventually); when cranes and herons started stealing goldfish, I was given fox urine to spread around the pond to discourage them (Jim did encourage me to delegate; I managed to pass that one on to someone else. It smelled so bad that that idea was soon abandoned and we covered the fish pond with a net. I still sometimes find huge birds staring hungrily at the fish when I walk out there). Eventually I took over the bookkeeping as well. He took to calling me his right arm. Over time, I picked up assistants, two of whom are still with me: Marcia Warnock, who took over the book catalog, spread the fox urine, keeps me in office supplies, handles all the annoying phone calls, and keeps me on schedule; and Alan Romanczuk, who took over the questions and research, became our IT specialist, and assists with the bookkeeping, among many other things.
Then, after the Knife of Dreams tour, Jim was diagnosed with amyloidosis. Our focus changed somewhat; we all worked to help him and Harriet as much as we could. After the night that Jim told the ending to Wilson and Harriet, I would sit and talk with him about the end of the series, with a tape recorder running. The last thing that we did together was select the winners of the calendar art contest. Note: I didn't select, I just gave him the art and took notes, and then emailed the winning names to Tor. That was two days before his death.
The significant thing that has changed about my job since then is that Jim isn't here. It's quieter—there is no big, booming voice calling "Maria!" or singing as he comes in the office. There's no one explaining military stuff to me and making it really clear and interesting. There's no one sitting at his desk wearing a silly hat. What I do at my job hasn't changed that much. Now I work directly for Harriet, who is as wonderful a boss as Jim was. When Brandon has questions about the books, I work on finding answers, as does Alan. When Brandon sends us a book, I go through it looking for continuity errors, just as I did with Jim, and suggesting other changes, just as before. I still do the bookkeeping with Alan's help, and other banal stuff. I know a lot more fans now, of course; I went to JordanCon, DragonCon, and the Charleston and New York booksignings for The Gathering Storm. I can hardly wait until JordanCon 2, which as I type is 11 weeks and 1 day away.
Voting has begun for the David Gemmell Legend Award, which I mentioned last week. It will continue through May 31st. Both Warbreaker and The Gathering Storm are among the five nominees, but if you're struggling to pick one I'd recommend The Gathering Storm since I feel it's more in the spirit of Mr. Gemmell's work.
There's a great article on Robert Jordan, Harriet, and finishing the Wheel of Time in the Charleston City Paper. I'm not sure about the print edition, but online it's listed as the cover story.
The Gathering Storm has won Audible's 3rd Annual Tournament of Audiobooks, defeating The Help in the final round. Wow! Since this is a fan-voted award, I'm honored that you decided to give it the nod. I'm sure Mr. Jordan is also pleased. Performers Michael Kramer and Kate Reading have many fans as well; if you haven't had a chance to check out the Wheel of Time series on audiobook, give it a try.
First off, I really enjoyed The Way of Kings. I became more emotionally attached to the characters in this book than I did in Mistborn or Elantris. Dalinar and Kaladin are some of my favorite literary characters of all time.
My question is in regards to the audio book version of The Way of Kings. I think Michael Kramer and Kate Reading did a great job narrating the book and creating voices for each of the characters but I wanted to know what you thought about it. Do you feel like the characters were portrayed accurately based on your original ideas for them?
I'm also reading WoT for the first time. I just finished A Crown of Swords and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens and how you complete the series. I just hope it doesn't delay the sequel to The Way of Kings too much. ;)
I asked for Michael and Kate specifically, since I've liked their work on the Wheel of Time. That said, it's always an odd experience to hear the book read by someone else. In fact, I find it an odder experience than getting cover art, which is arguably a larger 'interpretation' of my work than a reading is. I think with the reading, I find myself wanting to tweak and change things, so it's kind of a nerve-wracking experience.
I think Michael and Kate did a great job, though sometimes, it's a strange experience to hear voices I associate with WoT characters being used for someone else.
Audible.com is once again putting on its Tournament of Audiobooks, and Towers of Midnight is one of the competitors. The first round is underway, and so far Towers is narrowly beating out American Assassin. If you want to vote, click on the Best Sellers tab. (The Gathering Storm won last year's tournament.)
Suvudu has Vin up against Jon Snow in the semifinals of this year's cage match. Since Jon Snow hails from George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, he's probably going to win. Which I'm perfectly fine with, as George is a true master of a writer. Besides, I really have no interest in seeing both Vin and Perrin winning their semifinal matches (Perrin will be pitted against Quick Ben from Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, who is no pushover) and facing each other in the final.
Ta'veren Tees is having a contest where customers can win free Wheel of Time shirts. See their contest rules here.
There are also a couple of other updates. Towers of Midnight has made it to the semifinals of Audible's Tournament of Audiobooks, but it is currently behind in votes to Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. If you liked the Towers of Midnight audiobook, consider giving it your vote. (Of course you can vote for Matterhorn instead, if you think that was a better audiobook.)
I haven't linked this week's Writing Excuses podcast episode yet. Recent episodes were recorded at LTUE when I was at ConDFW, so I haven't been appearing, but this episode marks my return. Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, and I talk about urban fantasy.
Are you an audiobooks listener? And if so, what sorts of books do you listen to?
Yes I did. I very much wanted it to come out unabridged, because I have a first cousin once removed who is dyslexic and she could not manage to read the books very well, and she wanted to. So, I agitated to get an unabridged edition done from the very beginning. And I also pressed for there to be a man to read the male point of view sections and a woman to read the female point of view sections. At first I was told it was not necessary and that it was not done. And I said, "We'd like it done." Various people finally agreed with me.
You must have heard the abridged versions.
Please don't get me off on that.
Oh, go ahead. This is my big bugaboo too.
I don't like abridged versions, and particularly with something as long as my own books. In the abridged versions as much as 90 percent of the book has to be cut out, so I don't like them. As a matter of fact, I made sure that no one could do an abridged version of this latest book. I still own those particular rights, specifically defined, and I do not intend to let anybody do it.
I do not believe in abridgments. I think abridgments tell people that they are getting a dumbed down version of something. What people think they're getting is an easier or faster version, but what they are actually getting is the version for dummies.
Do you listen to many audiobooks?
Not to a great extent, sometimes in the evening. But most of the time I read the actual hardbacks. I read books before they ever hit the audio stage and I listen to music most of the time.
A lot of people asked pronunciation questions.
He remarked that no one ever seemed to read the glossaries. He also remarked that one of the taped versions (I omitted this earlier because I didn't catch the publishers) was just awful about this—they stopped calling for clarifications about halfway through the first book. He thought this meant they had enough to extrapolate correctly for the rest of them. They did not.
He ended by commenting that everyone was going to come up with their own internal pronunciations anyway.
I'm trying to get it revised as quickly as I can. This book is going to need a lot of care to make sure I don't miss anything.
Who has the most POVs? Is it a tie between a couple people?
Boy, I haven't counted. Rand/Perrin/Egwene/Mat are all probably about neck and neck.
[Now-protected tweet that said something about Egwene getting so many POVs.]
Well, she IS one of the main characters of the series. It would be kind of odd to leave her out of the Last Battle...
Will there be an audiobook release along side the text (with Micheal perhaps)?
Yes, there should be.
Okay, I'm off until later tonight. Progress on the revision is going well; I expect to be done by mid-February, maybe by the end of January.
Is there an official release date for the final book yet? Last I heard was March.
There isn't yet, though it will be fall. Harriet asked for more time to edit, and I needed time to do more research.
You probably hear this often, but you have done an outstanding job on WOT books. Thank you for honoring Jordan and saving fans. #mistborn
It has been an honor.
Something which just occurred to me was that, other than editors, advance reviewers, etc. the first people who will get their hands on the conclusion to The Wheel of Time will be the audiobook narrators—including Kramer, who has been a constant voice in the series. You've written that the final words in the series are Robert Jordan's—can you give away whether the final voice on the audiobook might be Kramer's?
Ha! I can't give you something like that. I'm sorry. Nice try, though.
Michael Kramer is, other than Elantris (Jack Garrett), Warbreaker (James Yaegashi), and the Alcatraz series (Ramon de Ocampo), "the voice of Brandon Sanderson" when it comes to audiobooks, handling narration on The Wheel of Time, the Mistborn trilogy, The Way of Kings, and now The Alloy of Law. What makes him such a well-suited narrator for your books?
I feel there's a fine line to walk between performing too much and not enough. When I like to listen to an audiobook, I don't want to hear just a dry read. I like a subtle shift in character voice and tone when someone is speaking, so that you can get a sense of it. But I don't like it performed so much—particularly for my own works—that it takes you out of the story. Having listened to the Wheel of Time audiobooks, as that is one of the main series I've listened to in my life, I really wanted Michael Kramer for some of my works. So I asked for him by name.
Another question commonly asked is whether Michael Kramer and Kate Reading will return to voice the audiobook for A Memory of Light. The answer is yes, and the audiobook will definitely be released the same day as the hardcover.
They are already all on audio book.
The man was actually standing very close to the rack full of audio volumes.
Well, they read word for word. They're not edited. And really, as far as I know, there's no direction. They did ask for — at the beginning, with The Eye of the World, they wanted advice on pronunciations. (laughter)
And they got it, and they understood some of the instructions and missed a couple. (laughter) And I will tell you that the readers are a husband and wife of professional actors, both of them. But the woman's response—when she saw The Eye of the World, she said, "Why do you bother with a woman reader?" And the answer was: wait for the next book. (laughter)