Hello WoT fans!
Memory Keeper Bill Tracy, aka Mandamon, here (via Jaimie Sedai), reporting on the third-to-last signing for A Memory of Light that took place in Raleigh, North Carolina, on February 20th. We were lucky to have both Brandon and Harriet with us.
We convened at Quail Ridge Books and Music, a fantastic independent bookstore that has been serving the Raleigh community for nearly thirty years, and is well known to locals and students at the nearby North Carolina State University. Quail Ridge Books is unique in that it acts as a meeting place for writers of all ages - both new and seasoned. They have a large space available for books signings, and it was certainly needed this night!
The lucky fans Chosen (pun fully intended) by Dragonmount for this event were Gary Singer (our “First Among Equals”), Gary Kellum, Kerri Cushing, Tom Burchhardt, Jaimie Krycho, Oliver Gatchalian, Joel Abney, and myself. Seven of us met twice before the signing to go over the schedule, test our recording equipment, and generally nerd out, and the eighth joined us at the signing itself, as he had to make a two-hour drive. We instantly bonded and had a lot of fun discussing both WoT and Brandon’s own works.
Before the signing, the Memory Keepers all arrived several hours early, but some fans still had us beat! We saved our front-row seats, flapped books, set up the event area, and giggled delightedly about what would happen that night.
Brandon and Harriet’s flight got in a little late, but they were right on the ball, sitting down to sign several hundred pre-ordered and first edition books, as well as the Memory Keepers’ books, all while answering questions. It takes quite the multitasking skills to write a quote in a copy of A Memory of Light while answering hard questions posed by avid fans! Many of the fans’ question are included at the end of this post, but everything up to then will remain spoiler-free.
We were only able to blast questions at the two for about thirty minutes before we had to reluctantly give them up to the hundreds of other fans waiting in the store, who clapped and cheered as Brandon and Harriet entered the room.
Oliver initiated the live stream for Dragonmount as René, event coordinator at Quail Ridge, laid the ground rules for the signing. Tom then introduced Brandon and Harriet with a moving speech about the influence that WoT has had on its readers.
Brandon then came up and spoke. Here are some of the highlights:
“I read the WoT books all through my career, and all through college. I loved them, and at times hated them. Anyone else remember when Book 6 came out and it wasn’t the end? I was not happy. I went through everything WoT fans seem to go through - the appreciation, and the transition from waiting for the ending to just letting Robert Jordan do what he wants to do.
In 2007, when he passed away, I was as surprised as anyone was. For me, I became a fantasy author in part because of my love for his books. I learned to write novels by reading his books, and I chose my publisher because it was the one that published the WoT books. So it was the end of an era. We talk about the end of the Third and the start of the Fourth - well the end of that age for me was when Robert Jordan passed away. I didn’t think for a minute I would be here, five years later. It has been an amazing journey, and the last five years have been unparalleled.
I can’t tell you how awesome it was to look through [Jordan’s] notes and see things in the middle of their progress. As a writer, I haven’t grown as much since writing my first book. It was amazing and wonderful, but over it all there was this cloud, that I couldn’t have done this if my favorite author hadn’t passed away. People ask me how I feel; it’s a weird mix of emotions. It’s probably similar to the emotions you will have reading the last page [of AMoL]. It’s wonderful and awesome you got to be part of this, but now it’s done, and there’s sadness. It’s like Christmas: you’ve opened all your presents, and now what?”
Fans enjoyed hearing Harriet’s ongoing affectionate jokes about “Jim.”
Brandon: I don’t know how much you know about Harriet, but she was the one who discovered Robert Jordan.
Harriet: He was lying around loose at the time.
Brandon: Harriet is one of the most awarded editors in science fiction and fantasy, and has been throughout her career. She edited Ender’s Game, she discovered Robert Jordan and WoT, and the she married Jordan to make sure her editorial advice got taken.
Harriet: Well, there were other reasons, too.
The fans proceeded to ask questions of Brandon and Harriet.
Q: My question is, are you going to tell which scenes are entirely yours and which are entirely Jordan’s?
Brandon: I’m avoiding a lot of detail until people have a chance to read the books. I’ll repeat what I said before. In TGS, if it was Egwene, a lot of those scenes were Robert Jordan. If it was Rand, a lot of those scenes were me. In ToM, if it was Matt, a lot of those scenes were Jordan, and if it was Perrin, it was more me. Matt in TGS was me. The Matt in ToM 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 EoTW 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 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.
Q: You said in TGS, the Rand was very dark. Was his darkness in the book hard to write?
Brandon: Rand’s darkness was certainly hard to write. But there’s a piece of the writer that says when this is tough, that’s good. One, you’re pushing yourself. Two, if it’s emotionally hard for you, and you’re doing this the right way, it’s going to be emotionally hard on the reader, and that’s a sign that they will be emotionally invested. So yes, it was hard. How did I get into the mindset? The same way I do everything. There’s actually a lot of method acting to writing, where you sit down and become that character for a time. Harriet has a story about Robert Jordan and how he did it. She could always tell.
Harriet: I could generally tell when he came in for the evening news and supper whether he had been writing a good person or a bad person. In particular there was an evening when he came in and slammed the door, and was skulking around the wall like this [hunches up against the bookshelf behind her], and I said, “You’ve been writing Padan Fain, haven’t you?” And he said, “How did you know?” Usually he came in and said “Hello, honey!”
Brandon: So you get in the mindset and go, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and if it doesn’t, you throw it away and start again the next day.
Q: Are any of [the outrigger books] going to happen?
Harriet: No. I’m sorry about that, but as you all may know, Jordan expressed his horror of anyone writing in his universe. He said he would rent a semi and drive it back and forth over his hard disks before that happened. He made it clear in the last months that he did want them finished. But as for the outrigger novels, he only left one or two sentences, and there isn’t enough of Robert Jordan for him to be present in those books in the way he would have wanted. The same with the prequels. I’m sure you’ve all seen “A Christmas Carol” and Marley shows up all in clanking chains? He’d come and get me!
Q: Do you see Robert Jordan’s characters coming out in your writing?
Brandon: No. That may happen unconsciously, but my goal is not to have that happen, because I want to tell different stories. It would be like if Kelsier started coming out in Dalinar. It’s just not something we want to have happen as a writer. We want everyone to be their own individual.
Q: Did you have a method for keeping the voice of the characters the same as the previous book?
Brandon: I did, and that method was to read the last scene of that character before I wrote the new one. That became tougher as I wrote more and more on the last three books as I went along and the characters changed. Reading Rand from Book 11 didn’t help a lot with Book 14, but it did help with Book 12.
Q: Is there any method to keep the universes separate in your mind?
Brandon: People often ask questions like this. It’s a hard question to answer because I’m very absent minded—I forget my keys or where I parked my car. But I don’t forget stories. I have stories from when I was 15 still crystal clear in my mind, waiting to be written down. That’s just how I work. I do have tools to help me work. One of them is a personal Wiki, it’s open source, and called WikiDPad. I really like that. It’s helpful visually. But at the end of the day, I’ve just got to get the stories down on the page without screwing them up.
Q: Who is Harriet’s favorite character?
Harriet: The one I’m reading at the moment. There’s one guy who’s a peddler in the Waste, and we sort of think he’s a good guy, but he’s not, he’s perfectly awful, and he’s thinking at one point about his sister, and how tragic it was when he had to kill her, and I thought about how he’s just so beautifully drawn. My husband always made a point. Everybody thinks they’re wonderful human beings, including him. Wasn’t his fault—he had to do it. I just love that about each and every character, even that son-of-a-gun. I couldn’t help loving him a little bit. Very human, but I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley.
Q: What’s your favorite female character in the series?
Harriet: I’ve always had a sneaker for Siuan Sanche. And when she’s on the lam, in a straw hat, wanted for barn burning, I thought, “Yeah, that’s my kind of dame.”
Q: When did you find time for sleep during all this?
Brandon: It was a long, hard, 5 years. Fortunately, I work from home, and I’m able to stop work for the day, go see my family without a commute, visit with them for 3–4 hours, and then go back to work and still get in 12-hour days. That was a lot of my life, especially during the first 3 years. During the last 2, we slowed down a little bit, just because it was so hard. That’s part of why the last book took 2 years—I just couldn’t keep up the pace.
Q : I was amazed by the language, geography, people, and so on in the books, and I always wondered what Robert Jordan’s office looked like. I thought it must be covered with maps and things relating to the books. What was it like to walk in there?
Harriet: What you saw first when you walked in was a plastic human skeleton. And it wears a Viking helmet. And then you saw the books. There was a bookcase filled with books on religions. There was another bookcase of westerns. There was a very big printer, and a roll-top desk. But what there weren’t were maps. They were all in his head.
Brandon: There were a lot of weapons, though.
Harriet: There was a room full of edged weapons!
Q: Will there ever be a WoT TV series?
Brandon: The rights are owned by Universal Pictures and they are developing an EotW feature film.
After this initial Q&A session, Brandon and Harriet went straight back to the signing table. To keep everyone going, the Memory Keepers had planned a selection of games, including the crossword puzzle created by Wetlander for the Seattle Memory Keepers and a twenty questions-style game where fans had to ask yes or no questions to find out which character name sticker was on their back.
Tor provided swag for the Memory Keepers to hand out to those who could answer questions correctly. Later, Jaimie serenaded everyone with one of the humorous songs she wrote about the WoT.
The signing went until 11:30. All kinds of books came through the line, including Brandon’s Alcatraz books, a few Ender’s Games, and some very old copies of Wheel of Time books with Robert Jordan’s signature in it. One of the fans present was he and Harriet’s limo driver from a long-ago tour!
Finally, we wrapped up. It was an ending to our time enjoying Brandon and Harriet’s company, but of course not the ending.
Below are some interesting questions fans posed to Brandon and Harriet. They include major spoilers for WoT and Mistborn! You have been warned.
Q: Was the flaw in Callandor deliberate?
Brandon: Yes, Callandor was deliberately designed as a trap.
Q: Could a woman channel the True Power through Callandor?
Brandon: I don’t believe so – MAFO (ask Maria and find out).
Q: Was Aviendha pregnant by the end of the books?
Q: Was it up to you to decide what the Dark One actually was? The revelation that the Dark One was a concept or idea rather than a person reminded me very much of Ruin from the “The Hero of Ages.” How did you make that decision?
Brandon: I was left a lot of freedom on how to do that specific thing, and earlier in the first draft he wasn’t so much like that. We felt the conflict wasn’t working—it felt more like the Last Conversation than the Last Battle. Harriet sent back direction for something stronger. The revision included the dueling of possibilities. That is where the Dark One became more involved and so it evolved into that, but we weren’t following anything specific Jim had said.
Q: In your novellas “Legion” and “The Emperor’s Soul,” there was a common theme of a creation of character. Were you making a comment on that as a writer?
Brandon: “The Emperor’s Soul” was much more so, specifically dealing with the artistic process. That was part of the theme for me. Legion was more “Wow, this idea’s awesome.” I originally told Dan (from Writing Excuses) that he should write this, it’s really quirky. He said, “I got my own ideas—go write it yourself!”
Q: Regarding Burning Out, is it Healable?
Brandon: Not in the same way that Stilling is Healed. All it says in the notes is what I just said. And that Nyneave would not be able to Heal Setalle. Being reborn would heal Burning Out, but Transmigration would not. That’s why even though Lanfear shifted bodies, she was still reduced.
Q: When Perrin asked the wolves to relay a message, was that the greatest game of Telephone ever played?
Brandon: It probably was the case! They would call it something different, because they didn’t have telephones.
Q: Was Perrin’s hammer forged with Hopper’s soul, or was he considered dead at the time?
Brandon: There was nothing in the notes to say I could put Hopper’s soul in the hammer, but there was also nothing to say I couldn’t, so I believe it was there, since otherwise it would be gone forever. [Much cheering from the Memory Keepers]
Q: Question about the anti-balefire weave. Balefire burns out the threads of the Pattern. The Flame of Tar Valon, does it put the same threads back in? Or does it put brand new ones in?
Brandon: It does rebuild the Pattern.
Q: Did the Creator ever manifest in the books? And I don’t mean the VOICES IN CAPS.
Q: Did The Creator speak in ALL CAPS at least once or twice?
Brandon: The same voice spoke in all caps in the series.
Q: What makes you like Aviendha so much?
Brandon: It’s hard to explain. Always as a reader, I thought she was awesome. She didn’t take any nonsense, and put Rand in his place when he needed it. I liked reading about her. Her viewpoint was different. When I read the Aiel, I thought they were weird, and then reading Avienda, I saw they were just different. It was something Robert Jordan did very well.
Q: Getting back to Callandor, we know that you have to channel the appropriate power though a seed - saidin or saidar. So I was wondering how Callandor got TP capability. Is it because of the flaw, or did someone channel the TP through the seed at the time it was created?
Brandon: That’s an excellent question to which I do not have the answer. It’s not one I had considered.
Q: Somebody had said when I posted in the Facebook re-readers group that there is a theory that the capability might be due to the Taint, but I wasn’t sure that was the case.
Brandon: I believe it was made intentionally to do what it did for a specific use. Not what it ended up being used for. I’d don’t think it was used for that. I think it was built - you’re going to have to clear it with Maria - I think it was built to be a trap for one of the male Forsaken.
Q: And of course, Ishamael was obliterated, just like he wanted. Finally. We think. Was his soul destroyed?
Brandon: It does not actually say.
Q: Do we see a full grown Jumara in the encyclopedia or anywhere else?
Q: I’ve been fortunate enough to read “White Sand” and “Aether of the Night” and I enjoyed them very much. Will they ever be published? I also managed to read “Dragonsteel" and I enjoyed that too.
Brandon: “White Sand” will definitely eventually be published. “Aether of The Night,” not so sure on, because “Aether” is two halves of two books that didn’t fit together. The two pieces didn’t mesh. “White Sand” is part of the sequence and will be done. “Dragonsteel” is part of the sequence and will be done, but it will be very different now that the Shattered Plains have been used in WoK.
Q: Perrin felt his ta’veren-ness melting away. If Mat lost it too, does he lose his luck?
Brandon: I don’t believe that he does. Being a ta’veren has a distinct effect on him, but I think there is an innate luckiness to Mat, partially drawn from the fact that the Heroes [of the Horn] call him Gambler. And so in other lives where he would not have been ta’veren he was still a gambler and still lucky. However, I do think being a ta’veren meant that the luck was greatly magnified, and I think it grew stronger and stronger through the series. That’s my read on it from the notes, and I’m pretty sure on that one. I have to give the caveat that there could be something out there that contradicts me.
Q: Did the Ogier come from the same world as the grolm and other Seanchan creatures?
Brandon: I do not believe that they did.
Q (con’t): But did they come from a different world?
Brandon: [laughs] Hey, hey, That I will RAFO!
Q: The [offscreen] conversation between Tuon and Hawkwing, can you tell us anything about that?
Brandon: I can tell you that it did take place, and that Hawkwing is more inclined to agree with what’s going on in Seanchan than I think what fans expect him to be. Now, remember that Hawking was not fond of Aes Sedai. Part of that was not his fault, but he was not fond of them. He is not just King Arthur, he is Alexander the Great. King Arthur ruled through justice. Artur Hawkwing ruled through justice and ruthlessness. It will certainly be a conversation filled with emotion and passion, but I don’t think everyone expecting Hawking to take their side is understanding who Artur Hawkwing is.
Q: When Gawyn and Galad were defeated so handily by Demandred, I was thinking it was a throwaway of two characters. Then Lan rolls in and it put everything in perspective to show how good he was. Was that the purpose?
Brandon: That was part of the purpose. It was a war, and someone needed to take out Demandred. Gawyn’s arc is tragic, and the end of the arc is what we all know he shouldn’t do, by going out by himself.
Q: Do Jenn Aiel still exist at the time of the book?
Brandon: There might be some Jenn Aiel still around.
Q: Do the Tinkers ever find the song?
Brandon: Directly in Robert Jordan’s notes, is this quote, verbatim: “The Tinkers never find their damn song!”
Q: Why did the Lord Ruler [in Mistborn] have to stay aged at times?
Brandon: That’s when he was doing his rebuild. He didn’t really have to, but he let himself. He has to recharge periodically, and then stays on a higher and higher burn over the thousand years. It gets harder and harder. The way the magic works - he doesn’t have to stay aged.
Q (con’t): Is he burning or tapping?
Brandon: He’s tapping.