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Thursdays with Tynaal: Interview with Jennifer Liang

Tynaal Consen

Hello, all! With pleasure, I welcome you back to my blog this Thursday. I've had the luck of getting to interview a very impressive woman. Some of you may know her personally, yet others may not. Nevertheless, you surely have heard of her. So, without further ado, I present to you--Jennifer Liang!


Q: Where are you from? What do you do?


A: I'm originally from Salt Lake City. When I was fifteen, my dad accepted a job transfer to Atlanta, Georgia, where I've been ever since. Currently, I teach language arts at a private school for teenagers with autism spectrum disorders.



Q: Are you married with a little horde of Trollocs to call your own?


A: I'm married to James Liang (Segurant on the forums) and we don't have any children yet.



Q: What do you like doing in your time off from your duties at Dragonmount?


A: Teaching takes up most of my time. I'm also working on my Master's in Special Education via distance learning at Western Governors University.  I also chair JordanCon, run the Robert Jordan track at Dragon*Con, and I'm the host of Tor.com's official Wheel of Time Facebook and Twitter portals. I also have a food blog where I post about what I'm cooking and places I like to eat: Northside Food.



Q: How were you introduced to The Wheel of Time? What about it has made you such a fan?


A: My mom bought me the first three (that's all there was) when I was in the sixth grade. What's grabbed me the most over the years was the characters.

They feel like real people to me, warts and all. I spent a lot of time in high school worrying about Rand and Egwene instead of paying attention in class.  I like the role of fate and prophecy and the puzzles that Jordan created for his readers. I'm not nearly the theorist that others are, but I still enjoy noodling around with ideas and reading others' thoughts.



Q: How far back do you and Dragonmount go? How did you find it and why did you join it?


A: I joined in 1998 about three weeks after Jason put the forums online. I found it because some guy kept spamming the Wheel of Time forums that existed back then with links to his super cool new Wheel of Time discussion site. A bunch of posters I knew from wheeloftime.com joined it and I followed them over.



Q: What is the best thing about Dragonmount, in your opinion?


A: Being able to interact with other fans. I'm old enough to remember the pre-Internet days when you usually knew absolutely no one else who shared your geeky interests. Being able to share my love for something with fans all over the world is not something I take for granted. 



Q: Have you always enjoyed reading books, even as a young child, or

were you a late bloomer?


A: Oh, I've always been a bookworm. My fifth grade teacher told my parents at a conference once, "In twenty years of teaching, I've never had to say this. Take the books away from your daughter and make her go outside!" 



Q: Are you proud to be a geeky person?


A: Absolutely. It's a lot of fun. 



Q: Have you ever dressed up as a character from the Wheel of Time or do

you have any Wheel of Time inspired tattoos?


A: Yes, I dress up as the Amyrlin Seat every year for the Dragon*Con parade. No tattoos, alas. Every time I start thinking about one, my husband talks me out of it. 



Q: Spear or Dagger?


A: Spear. Less chance of cooties. 



Q: What Ajah would you be in if you had to choose one and why?


A: Brown. I love history and I love books. 



Q: Who are your favorite and least favorite characters of the series?


A: My favorite is Egwene. My least favorite is Gawyn. She could do so much better. 



Q: What profession did you want to have when you were a kid?


A: I've always wanted to be a teacher. 



Q: Randland or our world?


A: As fun as it would be to channel, I'm awfully attached to indoor plumbing. 



Q: If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?


A: Too many places! I still haven't been to Europe. Perhaps in a few years. 



Q: What exactly is the position you hold on Dragonmount and how did you come by it?


A: My official title is "Project Manager". Originally at Dragonmount, I was an Org Leader, which is what we called Social Group Leaders back in the day. I eventually worked my way up to being Community Admin on top of that, which meant that I was ultimately responsible for everything on the forums except the RP. I did both these jobs for a number of years, until I founded JordanCon. The time demand of running a small business and chairing a convention didn't leave me with very much time to be active on the forums every day. So Jason and I agreed it was time to phase me out. We both still wanted me to be involved in Dragonmount somehow and Jason had gotten used to having an Admin who knew Team Jordan, knew the publishers, knew all the other Big Name Fans, etc. So we sort of created this idea that my job was now to work on all the weird odds and ends that kept cropping up, but didn't fit neatly into someone else's job description.


The first project I undertook was updating the Wheel of Time FAQ. That ended up taking more time than we initially expected, but we did finally get it out and updated in time for the release of Towers of Midnight. I also did much of the organizing of the Storm Leader and Tower Guard volunteer

programs. I help with other odds and ends around the site too, like keeping our Twitter and Facebook accounts updated.



Q: Wow, you do a mighty amount of work for the Wheel of Time fandom! How is it that you were involved in the WOTFAQ, and what exactly does your work for Tor.com entail?


A: When I took over the WOTFAQ, Leigh Butler had not been able to update it since Crossroads of Twilight was released. This meant that it hadn't been updated for either Knife of Dreams or New Spring. So my job was to go through the entire FAQ, find the articles that were now out of date, and revise them. I also had to identify which topics were now currently under discussion and what the most commonly accepted answers were. It sounds simple, but the FAQ has something like 80 unique articles, ranging from just a few sentences in length to the 30-page monstrosity that is the Asmodean murder mystery. You have the added challenge of the FAQ changing home communities as well. It went from being based primarily from the old rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan newsgroup to being based off discussion from the Dragonmount forums. So I wanted to update, but keep as much of the original document in place as I could. It was a balancing act. I had lots of help from Linda Taglieri, Matt Hatch, and of course Luckers, among others. I think we got it right, overall.


We intended to release the updated FAQ in time for The Gathering Storm, but by the time I could start working on the FAQ, I'd already read the book and was worried that I'd inadvertently spoil something. It also took Jason and me longer than we expected to get the WOTFAQ's database set up. So we ended up shelving it until the Towers of Midnight release. It gave us more work to do for that update, but it was the right decision. I would not have been comfortable releasing the pre-TGS FAQ.


As for Tor.com, Jason let me know back in February that Irene Gallo had approached him about starting up a Tor.com branded Facebook and Twitter portal. They'd been starting up other portals like Tor.com Art Department, Tor.com Fantasy, Tor.com Steampunk, etc. and they wanted one for JUST Wheel of Time links. Jason didn't have time to take on another project, but he knew I was unemployed and I do the lion's share of keeping the Dragonmount Facebook and Twitter accounts updated anyways. So he recommended me for it. Irene called me that week and we talked for a bit about the time commitment and how I'd be compensated. And that was it. My job is to spend about ten hours a week looking for interesting Wheel of Time related links around the Internet to post on Twitter or Facebook. It's a fun job and the extra money was quite helpful when I was unemployed.



Q: Was the beta version of the book very different from the final print that all other fans read? Were you excited about being able to read it before everyone else?


A: Oh, of course I was excited. I got a binder with the manuscript copy of The Gathering Storm at the first JordanCon. I was really glad I'd taken the day off from work after the con, because I spent all day reading it. I didn't need to take time off from work to read Towers of Midnight, because I was unemployed at the time, but I still spent all day reading it. The other beta readers who received it that day and I kept each other posted on what chapter we were on via email.


The Gathering Storm was much more polished. Brandon had been working on it for awhile at that point and had spent time revising already. There were some minor revisions, like "that's not a Wheel of Time word", but otherwise, I don't think there were any substantial changes.


Towers of Midnight was much rougher when we got it and Brandon made several changes at our suggestion, including adding a new scene that wasn't in the draft we saw. There were other changes we suggested, but Brandon said, basically "That's word for word what Robert Jordan wrote. I'm not touching it."



Q: What are Dragon*Con and JordanCon, and what is the difference between them (i.e. How would you describe them in a nutshell for people that have never attended either; Do you find the same amount of people going or is one more prominent than the other, etc.)? Also, how is it that Robert Jordan has his very own conference?


A: Dragon*Con is a very, very massive multi-fandom event. It has 30+ tracks of programming, around 400 guests, and tens of thousands of fans. Wheel of Time is just one of many things celebrated at Dragon*Con. Dragon*Con is also a much more media-centered event. There's lots of actors on the Walk of Fame and lots of folks standing in line for autographs.


JordanCon is obviously a much smaller event. We're focused mostly on the Wheel of Time series, but we do feature other authors.  We do not have media guests, which means that all autographs are free. All of Team Jordan attends, along with members of Robert Jordan's extended family. In some ways, it feels like a family reunion. Everyone sort of knows each other, and we all have similar interests.


There's been commentary in other places saying that the small, literature-focused con is dying off, crushed beneath the weight of behemoths like Dragon*Con or Comic-Con. Those people haven't been to a JordanCon. We're a very lively bunch and the convention gets bigger every year.


I think it really boils down to what you are looking for. Dragon*Con has far more choices for entertainment, but JordanCon is more intimate.



Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell the visitors of Dragonmount?


A: Click on the ads and buy things in our store. The money goes to pay for necessary software and equipment upgrades.  We have more traffic than any other WoT fansite (only Theoryland comes close to us in traffic, I think) and that's as much as a small commercial site. And we do it without anything even close to the resources that a commercial site might have. So supporting us like that means we can afford upgrades like the big one we did just before Towers of Midnight came out last year.

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great Q and A. i can't believe you really dislike gawyn that much. he is a nice guy just immature.

i don't like him either but i think he is good for egwene. keeps her Amyrliinness in check! lord knows she needs it!!!

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I really liked this interview, I had no idea about the specifics of Dragon*Con and JordanCon. Even though Dragon*Con sounds like more fanfare and celebration and fireworks, correct me if Im wrong but it seems like JordanCon would be less expensive. And believe me, if I can do cheap AND intimate, I'm all about it!


Incidentally, I liked this interview so much I went and bought a DM premium account to contribute my share lol. At first I was like "Awh man the coupon code thechosen expired, now I'd have to pay full price! Then I remembered it was for a good cause :P

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So why is it that you don't like Gawyn? and who would you rather Egwene be with?

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Jenn said I could put this picture in, so I did. It's of her in Robert Jordan's chair from when she visited his house.

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Love the interview! I'd also love to hear more of the old DM history.

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