Thank you to Lara, one of my fellow Memory Keepers, for writing this post!
Book Signing Lexington, KY with Brandon Sanderson and Harriet McDougal Rigney
January 11, 2013
As I was talking with fans as they were waiting to have their books signed, one of them asked me if I was the Loial of the Memory Keepers. I liked it, so I said yes. So consider this Loial’s report of the signing.
The Wheel of Time books were front and center as one entered Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington. The barista at Bronte’s Bistro said the managers were worried about running out of everything with the volume of people they were expecting. People began to file in, one or two in costume or pieces of costume, several in Ta’veren Tees t-shirts. There were whole families with small children in hand. One proud father said all of his children were “future fans” (he hoped).
By the time Brandon and Harriet appeared, there was standing room only. The bookstore was still open for regular business, but the top floor was filled with people holding A Memory of Light. There’s one fantastic picture in particular that you should be sure to check out on www.josephbeth.com (the Lexington Store). You’ll know it when you see it, I promise.
The Q&A Session was as follows (as I have not yet read The Book, I guarantee that this will be spoiler free):
Question: If there are three people, and person 1 balefires person 2, then person 3 balefires person 1, does person 2 come back to life?
Answer: Brandon reminded the fan that when someone asked Robert Jordan this question, Mr. Jordan responded by saying the asker needed the love of a man, woman, or schnauzer of his choice. There is actually a correct answer: balefire removes a thread from the Pattern, and, once removed, that thread cannot be replaced.
Question: How did Brandon feel when he was chosen to complete the work?
Answer: “Dumbfounded stupefaction.” Brandon repeated the story of how Harriet found Brandon and hired him to finish the series. It’s been stated several times, so I won’t repeat it here.
Question: Which character is most like you?
Answer: Brandon said he identified with Perrin. Harriet stated, “Verin, minus her wrong turn, but I still want her owl.”
Question: There was a new weave used by someone in book 14; did anyone else see it?
Answer: Yes, and that’s all that was spoken about it, since it contained spoilers.
Question: Did Brandon question himself when he was chosen?
Answer: Apparently, Brandon was unable to sleep that night after saying yes, because he knew that he would fail. Anyone who took on this project would fail, because no one could tell the story as good as Robert Jordan would have. Brandon had only published two novels at the time, so it was a huge risk for him, and it was a risk for Harriet to ask him. However, he knew that he was a fan of the series, and that, if he didn’t say yes, and it went to someone who wasn’t a fan of the series and they messed it up, it would be his fault. He decided that in the Venn Diagram that consists of Wheel of Time fans in one circle, and pretty good writers in another circle, he was the person in the middle. “I’ll screw it up the least,” he said.
Question: Will the prequels be written?
Answer: The answer, directly quoted from Harriet, is, “This is it. Except for the Encyclopedia, this is it.” There are not enough notes to write them, and Robert Jordan didn’t want any sharecropping, once stating he would “run over his hard disks three times in a semi” before he’d let that happen (which makes Tom Doherty sad). Robert Jordan left two sentences about the outriggers. Later, someone asked what the two sentences were. Harriet stated they contained spoilers, but they would be released at a later time, possibly six to seven months, possibly included in the Encyclopedia.
Question: With now having the new series on top of Brandon’s other work, is he concerned that he’s spreading himself too thin?
Answer: “That is a worry.” Brandon is a compulsive writer; he does side projects to keep himself fresh and able to write.
Question: Does he have any advice for new writers?
Answer: He suggests listening to his podcast, Writing Excuses, published weekly. In addition to this, someone recorded Brandon’s lectures in his writing Science Fiction and Fantasy class at BYU, and published them online at www.writeaboutdragons.com. It’s like taking his class. Harriet’s advice was to attend sci-fi conventions, which are quite frequent in this country. Editors and agents troll for talent, so attend often and collect as many business cards as you can.
Question: What is your writing regiment?
Answer: His goal is to write 2,000 words, but there are days when he writes a half a page, and days when he gets 20 pages. His biggest piece of advice: If it’s not flowing, work on it anyway. Do it wrong, commit it to the page poorly, and change it tomorrow.
Question: Are there any updates to a potential TV series or movie?
Answer: “It is, at present, under development at Universal Pictures, but the dates are mysterious to me.” --Harriet
Question: Will anything be done specially for those who won the contest to have their names in the book?
Answer: In The Gathering Storm, many fans stated that the names felt off, and Brandon agreed. Robert Jordan’s character names were inspired by the real world, such as Ogier St. in Charleston, his stove, medications he was taking, etc. There had been a fundraiser for one person to have his name included in one of the books, and that was being continued. Brandon decided to increase this, and put many people in the final two books. The short answer: Nope, the name in the book is the something special. (Note: Later, I happened to be sitting up front when the person who asked this question came to the front, with his wife and an absolutely adorable two-year-old little girl. Turns out, he had his daughter’s name placed in the book instead of his own. Brandon signed the book at the place where she was mentioned.)
Question: What was Brandon given to start his work?
Answer: 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” in TGS, and a proposal at the end of ToM. There were also discussions of scenes, and answers from Team Jordan.
Either my hand was cramping up or I missed a segue, but somehow a discussion of Brandon’s writing style commenced. He stated that he works from an outline, and that Robert Jordan grew and nurtured scenes over time. Brandon did not try to imitate Robert Jordan’s writing style, and left the blending of the two writing styles up to Harriet. Harriet was Tor Books’ original editor, discovering Mr. Rigney and editing the two best-selling series in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Harriet was in charge of blending the voices together.
Harriet gave a shout-out to a relative of hers from Kentucky named Martha Bennet Styles (I hope this is spelled correctly), author of the book Sailing to Freedom. The state of Kentucky chose this book to be included on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
Brandon and Harriet both thanked bookstores in general, saying that they provide a service that is difficult to find elsewhere. “Bookstores are a great treasure.”- Harriet
That concluded the Q&A portion, and they moved on to some housekeeping. While people were waiting in line to have their books signed, I began talking with the fans. I was curious to know what some favorite scenes were, how far they traveled, favorite characters, etc. One fan I met lived almost right across the street from the bookstore, while another family drove 5 hours. Most lived about 1.5-2 hours away.
One fan waited around for personalization for...I have no idea how long. The last book came out on his birthday, and he wanted Brandon to write Happy Birthday in it.
The question of favorite character came out overwhelmingly in favor of Mat, with one fan saying his favorite character was Noal. However, in the question of favorite scene, I figured Dumai’s Wells would be the overwhelming favorite (not my favorite part, but it seems to be quite popular). No one I asked said the same scene as another person. Dumai’s Wells, Rand’s bonding, Moiraine meeting Lan, Rand’s epiphany on Dragonmount, Lan admitting he loved Nynaeve, Lan finding Nynaeve after their separation, Moiraine describing the fall of Manetheren, even Mat cursing at Moiraine and Thom after leaving the Tower of Ghenjei were all mentioned as favorites, along with countless others.
The most remarkable and heartwarming experience for me at this signing was that everyone had a story. Each person had a tale to tell about how this book changed and impacted their lives. Marriages have happened and babies have been born because of this series. We’re all sad to see its end. I started reading this series at 11 years old, and I am now 31. The past 20 years of my life have been, in part, defined by The Wheel of Time. I would turn to my friends Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene when I literally had no other friends, and many others I’ve met did the same thing. Many of us don’t know what to do next, but, there are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel. This is a beginning.