Hello, everyone! Below is the report and Q&A from the Salt Lake City Signing!
February 1, 2013 was a rare sunny winter day in Salt Lake City when we assembled at Weller Book Works to meet Brandon Sanderson and more than 150 of his amazing fans. Brandon has often shared that the owners of this bookstore were so supportive in his early years as an author, before most Wheel of Time fans even knew his name, that it was terrific to have such a large crowd, especially with the January 8th Midnight Release Party in Provo having happened only about 45 minutes away from Salt Lake.
The gathering crowd included people of all ages, young and old. There were even infants and children hanging out–-future fans, their parents called them. Soon the seating section was overflowing, and people started staking out spots in the mezzanine, the stairs, and anywhere they could get a good view of the as yet empty lectern bearing a wonderfully large poster of the A Memory of Light cover.
We Memory Keepers handed out a variety of games and trivia to entertain the fans while they waited (some almost three hours) for their chance to get the book signed. Memory Keeper Marc T. went around taking photos of the whole event. Many of the pictures are here in the report, and the rest are in the Dragonmount Gallery. We shared four different sets of trivia questions, a quote match, and a crossword (thanks, Wetlander!). We thought we’d made a good sampling of easy and tough questions, and we were right about the tough ones–-we didn’t see any (that I know of) completely correct answer sheets. But people tried and worked together and we gave them hints, and eventually we started seeing completed trivia come back. We gave out extra raffle tickets to anyone who turned in the sheets, which meant some people ended up with lots of extra tickets for doing all that fun “work.”
The crowd was nice and thick even before the scheduled start time of 7:00 p.m., so Memory Keeper Deb N. went around with an activity she created. People pulled out a random slip of paper that contained their Wheel of Time “profession”. There were Gleemen and Aes Sedai, Atha’an Miere and Darkfriends–-fans had a lot of fun finding out the role the Pattern wove for them. Finally, after we Memory Keepers had a few private minutes with Brandon to get our own books signed, the man himself appeared to thunderous applause. He wore his signature leather jacket and looked surprisingly well rested considering he has a newborn at home! He jumped right in with the reading and Q&A, which is included below as recorded by Memory Keeper Chris W.:
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 Robert Jordan'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. Q: If Gaidal Cain is born again and it isn’t Olver, who is it? A: It’s not Olver. I know who it is, but I’m not allowed to tell you. (paraphrased) Q: First, how do you feel doing this, and finishing it? Is there going to be a followup? A: It’s hard to pin it down to one emotion, there were so many. RJ’s books were among my favorites growing up, books I studied teaching myself how to write. In a lot of ways, it was just a deep honor. My favorite author, finishing his journey, and I got to walk along supporting him. That’s how I regard it. It’s been amazing. Me being the journeyman writer, being able to apprentice under RJ, in his workshop, looking at his things and taking them, working with them, polishing them, finishing the last sequence, has been incredible for me as an artist to gain an understanding of the writer that he was. For the second question, there will be no more. He’d planned to write two more prequels and then a trilogy of outriggers, but we can’t do them. One reason is because he didn’t leave enough notes about them. As I wrote these, I had specific direction in the notes and could relay everything back to RJ. In the outriggers, I wouldn’t be able to do that. It would be more me than him. I don’t think he would’ve wanted any more to be done, so out of respect for him, even though many would like to see these, I think we need to say “let’s let it end where he wanted it to end”. If we keep going, where do we stop? Do we want 80 more Wheel of Time books? I think we’re better off just saying “we know he wanted this done, let’s end on a high note”.
Q: Is there a confirmed killer for Asmodean?
A: It’s listed in the Appendix of Towers of Midnight. It’s in there. Go find it. I found it by way of a post-it note listed on top of the notes. I don’t know any more than who did it, as far as why or how. There’s only a name.
Q: Is the Flame of Tar Valon weave going to be learned by others?
A: It was witnessed. That’s it.
Note: There was a little more to the question above, but I left it out of this log for two reasons: One, I had a really hard time keeping up with the person asking the question, not to mention Brandon trying to answer, and two, the guy who asked the question broke the “no spoilers in the Q&A rule”.
Q: What about the encyclopedia? A: They’re looking to turn it in about a year from now and have it come out that fall. It’s an alphabetical encyclopedia where you can look up a character and learn a lot about them.
Q: What kind of research did you have to do to make the battle tactics so believable?
A: The AMoL tactics were the things I was most worried about getting right. RJ was more of a military historian than me and he was a soldier, so we went looking for help. Harriet knows a man named Bernard Cornwall who writes a lot of military fiction, so he helped us, and Alan Fermachna is a war historian who was able to help us a lot. He built the battle plan for the entire war, as far as troop movements and the tactical portion of the Last Battle. Connecting them and making it meld into the story with the characters was my job. We went rounds about “this is tactically sound” or “no, it’s not”, so Alan was a big help making it believable. I did research, but my feeling is that I can get to 70-80% of knowledge on a subject pretty quickly through a month or two of research, but getting that last 20% is something that takes 10 years of work. My goal is to get to 70-80, and then give it to someone who knows their stuff and have them help me from there. Note: The names of the people Brandon referenced here were probably butchered. I was just trying to keep up with him so I could record the main parts of his response instead of focusing on the names of his references. Q: What happens with the Green Man? A: I have no answer for you. It is not spoken of by RJ, so you will have to extrapolate yourself. I could make something up, but I don’t do that anymore. If it was for the books, I could say “this needs to happen” with my creative freedom I was given, but at this point, with it done, that’s no longer my job. So my answer is, I don’t know! We know that the Nym must come back as the Ages turn, but we don’t know when they will be “reinvented”. Q: So what were some of the holes that you filled in with that creative freedom? 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 I’ve always wanted an Asha’man to play with, so to speak. More generally, for TGS I have said RJ worked a lot on Egwene’s viewpoints. Not as much on Rand. Rand was more me, Elayne was more RJ. In ToM, 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 AMoL 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.
Q: You work on four or five series at a time; how do you keep them from leaking?
A: It’s a challenge. Being a writer is a lot like a juggler, keeping the balls in the air. One of the things I worry about is repeating myself. It’s a valid thing, making sure you don’t do that and keep them separate. I use an extensive wiki for myself and my books. A lot of my children's series are breather novels, and things I do between big epics where I don’t have to worry so much about continuity. There’s a lot of continuity with The Way of Kings and books like that, so it can be very in depth and intensive, so to keep my sanity, every once in a while I’ll take a breather. At this point,Brandon took a moment to introduce Badali Jewelry. He mentioned that though there were tons of knockoffs of The One Ring from Lord of the Rings, Badali was the first jeweler to actually license an official One Ring. They had been doing Wheel of Time since before Brandon got involved, and have now expanded on his own books as well.
Q: What was the hardest part about writing in RJ’s universe? A: Probably keeping track of all the side characters. There were so many. I’d be reading a scene and be like “there’s seven wise ones, now who are they again?” Now, as the writer, I need to know who they are exactly, as well as each of their distinct voices. When I get them wrong, people notice and I hear about it. Q: When you read the books, did you have an affinity for a character, and as you wrote, did you change?
A: When I read it was mostly Perrin. I’ll admit I had a fondness for Mat later on, but it never became my supportive Perrin, even when he was down in the dumps. I didn’t stop being a Perrin fan because he moped a little. He was my favorite all along. When it came time to write the books, Perrin remained my favorite. He was among my favorite viewpoints to write as well. I was very excited by the prospect of being able to do a lot of Perrin in ToM, and having a lot of freedom with his sequences was a real pleasure. When I finished the rough draft of AMoL, there was a lot of, like 20% more Perrin than Rand, so that didn’t turn out right. It’s really Rand’s series, it needs more Rand, so when I sent it to Team Jordan, they said there was a lot of Perrin, so we upped the Rand count. There was a Perrin sequence that didn’t really feel right for the book that was about 20,000 words, so we cut that out and added a Rand sequence that was about the same length which I had already been working on, and that helped restore the balance. When I started AMoL I was fresh off ToM and in a Perrin mindset, so I was like PERRIN IS AWESOME, did his stuff, then moved on to the other characters’ arcs in succession. Q: How do you think finishing the RJ series will affect the Stormlight Archive? A: One of the things is that it has influenced and taught me to juggle viewpoints much better. When I first tried to write Way of Kings, the viewpoint juggling was off and when I rewrote it, it was better. I also really liked RJ’s subtlety. His foreshadowing has a light, gentle touch and I’m not always so light. I kinda punch you in the face with it. So those two things are something I learned a lot of. In general, something a lot of fantasy writers have problems with is side characters going out of control. It happens to about everyone. I have the advantage that I got to read RJ. He said he wouldn’t do it again if he had to do it over, so I can learn from that and be able to keep the tighter focus for the story. I like The Wheel of Time and the side characters, but RJ said he wished he did Book 10 differently than he did.
Q: Do you know what the Tinkers meant in the third book, as they were dying and they said “tell the Dragon Reborn”?
A: I don’t know. It might be in the notes. When I say “RJ’s notes”, it means one of two things. It is either a pile that his assistants collected, or the things he wrote for himself about the world. I’d ask Harriet and Maria a question, and they’d act like Google. Reading it all myself would’ve taken months, and the majority is about stuff already written and known. But really, I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Q: Androl is like your character, so as far as that, how much of that was kinda fought by the rest of Team Jordan as far as his gateway talent and stuff?
A: 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 things 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 WoT had done. So when I got to write WoT I broke out those files. The gloves were off, it’s 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 three or four. In the end, Harriet convinced RJ that it may be better without Dannil, so some of Dannil’s comments in AMoL are a shout out to that of sorts. Just a fun story I thought you all might find interesting.
The signing line wrapped around the perimeter of the bookstore, which gave fans the chance to peruse Weller Book Works' amazing and unique collection of books. Seriously, if you’re ever in Salt Lake, go to this store. Brandon, in his remarks, reminded everyone to support bookstores like these; there would be no good place to have book signings without bookstores, and it’s a bit difficult to sign books at the web stores.
Memory Keeper Brigitte went through the line playing WoT Hangman with fans who were waiting. Brandon took his time with each fan answering their unique (or spoilery) questions. One guy, who is a shoe-in for Perrin’s body double, asked Brandon to sign his bicep. That happened.
As a special treat for all of us, the fantastic folks from Badali Jewelry were also at the signing, and they brought great serpent rings, WoT character signet rings, a couple fox head medallions, and much more. They sold more than just WoT items; they also sold items inspired by some of Tor's other series. We saw jewelry from Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller series and Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series. They also generously donated an Asha'man dragon pin, which we auctioned off benefiting the Waygate Foundation, and gave us two items to give away: Moiraine's headpiece and a Mistborn metal alphabet.
Thanks to Tor Books and Badali Jewelry, the giveaways were really stellar. We paired AMoL messenger bags with a WoT trivia booklet and a paperback of Way of Kings or AMoL iPhone case. We had so much to share with fans that if we had done it all separately, we wouldn't have gotten through it all! Everyone had raffle tickets, and many people stuck around for the giveaways after their books were signed, which created a nice cluster of excited fans getting to know each other while they waited. We were raffling off every five minutes or so, and kept going until 10:00 p.m. The bookstore let us take that large book cover poster from the lectern, and we gave that away too with Brandon's signature on it. The fans were thrilled at that one.
The evening drew to a close and we Memory Keepers stuck around to visit and help Brandon as he signed and personalized pre-ordered books for the store. We had all wished for a little more time with him (who wouldn’t?), so used the time to pester him with more questions in between books. We had a discussion about the swords of WoT and learned that most blademaster swords in the books were katanas, much to our surprise, as many of us had imagined them being larger weapons.
We all had an amazing time being part of this experience, this moment in WoT history, and it’s not an event we’ll soon forget. Our sincere thanks to Dragonmount for giving us this opportunity!
The SLC Memory Keepers: Marc, Brigitte, Michael, Charlotte, Chris, Deb and Taylor