Thus Spake The Creator

Women and Men

Q: Are the men and women ever going to understand each other? I don't see the characters growing much that way... 
A: They're going to try. We'll see how far they get. I've spent forty-odd years trying myself, and I'm not certain how far I've gotten. 

Q: How did you develop the female characters in your series? They are a strength to the series, and are interesting because they seem to contain genuinely "feminine" thought patterns? 
A: I spent forty-odd years listening to women, and besides that, they're all based on my wife.

Q: Are any of your charachters based on anyone you know? 
A: All of the women are based on my wife.

Q: how did the ajais originate? 
A: Simply because I needed an organization for the power structure, and it seemed to me that a collective organization was something women were more likely to come up with, rather than something strictly hierarchal. 

Q: Your societies seem to all place women in a very influential role. Any particular reason why you created so many matriarchies? Also, do you already have a solution for Rand's love triangle? 
A: 1. 3000 years ago, the world was destroyed by men: specifically men, and for all of that time, every society has been afraid of any man who can channel. The result has to be greater power and influence for women. 2. Yes.

QI find your characterization of the relationships between the male and female characters to be interesting, and amusing. Did you model Nynaeve after an older sister or other female that tortured you in your youth? :) 
A: All of the women are modelled in one way or another after the conglomerate of women I've met in my life but every single one of them, EVERY one of them, has some element of my wife in her. I won't say what elements are in what characters, we'd get too far afrield. I will say it has nothing to do with torture in that particular case. 

Q: I like your use of strong female characters. Was there any inspiration for this? 
A: Yes, I grew up in a family of strong women. Most of the women i knew growing up were quite strong. I very early on realized that ---well, it seemed natural, this is how I saw the world. There were strong women and strong men and when weak men came along they were ridden over. But the fact that there were strong women didn't mean no strong men. Again, it's a given, there had to be a balance. 

Q: What made you decide to make male Aes Sedai go insane verses female Aes Sedai using magic somewhat safely? 
A: I'm not sure about the last of that question, but this was part of the basis, the foundation of the story: if women had gone insane using the power and not men, it would be a much different world, a much different story and not the story I was interested in writing! 

Q: Your female chacters have so much feeling and emotion. How do you acomplish this as a male author? 
A: With difficulty. I'll tell you, when I was about four years old, I was picked up by a friend of my mother  and she hugged me, she was wearing a soft, silky summer dress, and her perfume smelled life and as she put me down, my face slipped between her breasts and throughout the experience, I was thinking, "this is wonderful, this feels wonderful" and though I was four I found I wanted to spend my life observing these fascinating people and I've learned that they look different , they feel different, they are different, and I've put all this into the books.

Q: A recurring motif in the Wheel of Time series is the differences between men and women. Why did you decide to make this such an important feature in your writings, and why do you take such a bipolar view on gender?
A: I became fascinated with women at the age of three. It's a long story -- too long to go into here. But I quickly realized that for everything that was the same about men and women, there seemed to be at least two or three things that were different. Once I had decided that I wanted to use the One Power in the way that I was using it -- that is, divided into a male half and a female half -- it became obvious to me that the differences between men and women themselves should also play a part.

Q: The women characters in your books are really interesting, not at all the cardboard cutouts that appear so often in fantasy. Did you do that consciously?
A: In part. In this world, given the history that divides this world, women had to have real political power. But on the other hand, I simply consider women to be more interesting if there's more about them to be interesting. A real live Barbie might be a lot of fun for a weekend if you're 22, but after that there's not much to it. Empty calories. 
They are complex women, strong women, the sort of women I've always found interesting. As my grandfather said, "Boy, would you rather hunt rabbits or leopards?" No choice there.

Q: So will the male-female duality be resolved? Or is this a "read and find-out" question?
A: Read and find out. What I consider the major story lines will be resolved. There will be a number of minor story lines that will not be resolved, for the simple reason that there is no point to any real world where everything is resolved. That's always something that has irritated me about some novels--that you reach a point at the end of the book, and everyone's problems have now been solved, and all of the world's problems have been solved. I get the feeling I could put these characters and this world on a shelf and put a bell jar over them and go away. There's nothing left there alive.
That's the way it's going to be. I even intend to set a small hook in the last scene.

Q: What do fans tell you they like so much about your writing? 
A: It's a different thing for every person. 
Q: Really? 
A: Yes. 
Q: What do the women like? 
A: The women like the women. I was told by a number of women who came to a signing several years ago that they were surprised to find out that I was a man. They thought no man could write women like that. And I like this because my editor used to say that I couldn't write women at all. I find this a very sweet revenge.

Q: Mr. Jordan, it is a such a pleasure to converse with you like this. (Unfortunately, I am at work, so I must submit this without knowing if it will actually get answered, being 10 AM PST!) My question: It is apparent that the majority of the "World" is and has been greatly influenced, if not outright controlled by females. As we all know, females and males must work together (as in a circle) so as to defeat the Dark One. Will we be seeing more of a "work together attitude" between men and women in your future novels, or more of the "women should control all while looking down their nose at men" theme?
A: Both. I'm not certain that I have a women-looking-down-their-nose at men theme; I simply have women that consider themselves competent in and of themselves.

Q: First, thanks for such a wonderful series. Your unsurpassed character development, such an important part of fiction writing, makes this series stand head and shoulders above similar-themed works. My question is about balance. Obviously your world is driven by pattern and balance (male and female, light and dark, etc). Why is it that as many of your major and minor characters find their complement (i.e. significant other), Rand has 3, ehh, girlfriends. Is this simply because he's the "big cheese", or does this obvious imbalance represent the Wheel weaving what is necessary for the final resolution of the story?
A: Read and find out. Sorry about that!

Q: You've thought out your characters so clearly and their personalities are so complex. How hard was it to do this? Did it take a lot of planning ahead or did it just come naturally as you progressed into the writing?
A: There was a lot of planning ahead involved with the characters, and a lot of work -- with the women characters in particular, to try to make them seem like women instead of women written by a man.

Q: Let's talk about the Wheel of Time series. Does it appeal both to men and women the same?
A: It does. My English publisher commissioned a survey, and the managing director took us to dinner and said to me at the table, "We've discovered that your readership is perfectly spherical." I said, "What are you telling me? They're fat? What are you saying?"
He said that apparently in England, my readership is evenly distributed according to age level. Evenly distributed according to income level. Evenly distributed according to educational level, according to political party, according to area of the country they live in. Every single category it was even distribution. He said we could not find a significant statistical bump anywhere.
Now, there's no such survey for the United States. All I have is the fan mail and the people who show up at the signings. But I have 12 year old kids and I have people in their 80s. I have gangbangers and cops. I get letters from convicts. I have college students and doctors and housewives. I had teenage girls telling me things like, "You are sooo cool." I mean, good Lord, I felt like a rock star. I found that Sir Edmond Hillary is a fan of my books. I found that a high official in the Russian government hands my books out, telling people that they are not a manual of politics but a manual of the poetry of politics. There is no typical Robert Jordan reader.
Q: Can you explain that? I don't think I've ever talked to another author who's told me that.
A: No. No, I can't. I try to write about people who seem like real people. When I need to make somebody do something in the stories, they do it for reasons that that person would do it, not simply because it's part of the story. I work very hard, when I am writing from a woman's point of view, to make that character seem like a woman, not like a woman written by a man.
I was very pleased, years ago, when I was on tour for "The Dragon Reborn," and Robert Jordan was not Robert Jordan, so to speak. He was just another fantasy writer out there, not somebody who made the New York Times (best seller lists) or anything like that. I had women come up to me then and say, "Until they saw me, they had thought Robert Jordan was the pen name of a woman, because said they didn't believe any man could write women that well." So I thought, "All right! Damn. I did it, I did it right."
I try to make the people distinct in who they are, and as I said, "I work very hard on the women in particular, and I think that makes all of the characters real, or seem real." Now, that may turn out to be not at all the reason that people like the books, but it's the only reason I can think of. Except I think do think I tell a pretty good story.

Me: You talked before about the same Age in different Turnings, you can compare them to tapestries, they look alike at first sight. I was wondering, when at first sight, what would make a difference... Two points I'm really interested in. [*grumble* A stupid mobile phone was apparently not switched off here; yet again... I think Leiden was the only question session not interrupted by this.] Level of technology and gender related... if for example the roles of men and women were switched between Ages, would the tapestries still look alike at first sight?
Jordan: Ah, but you're not gonna have that sort of switch. In this Age, how can you have a switch?
Easy. Men can channel safely and women can't! Is Jordan missing a point here? - Raina One of the things for instance in the Age that I wrote. One of the things...For instance, I've been accused by somer people of ignoring the feminist struggle. Well, there is no feminist struggle in this world, because there is no need for one. No one says a woman can't do this because she is a woman. A woman wants to be a blacksmith, she can learn to be a blacksmith, and she becomes a blacksmith, or a merchant or a wagondriver, or a worker on the docks, or wherever else. All of that took place, took place a long time ago. And they're very good at it. That sets the whole reasons why this should come about. Three thousand years ago the world was destroyed, by men. There is one group that has survived for that three thousand years, one organization that has managed to stick together for three thousand years, and have a great influence on history, and that is a group of women. [Anyone remember the debates about how good or bad the Aes Sedai were at their job? Of course you do... Well, here is clear proof that Jordan at least considers them worthy of admiration.]
Okay, so you just don't have, you just don't have it. To have a reversal of roles means... absolutely nothing.
Me: Okay, so the sociological results would always be the same, every Turning ...?
Jordan: Ah, that is one of the things, one of the things that would be a large, a very large change. Uhm, it's gonna be the smaller details, smaller things than that which change.

Reports from signings

RJ wrote the Mat/Tylin scenario as a humorous role-reversal thing. His editor, and wife, thought it was a good discussion of sexual harassment and rape with comic undertones. She liked it because it dealt with very serious issues in a humorous way. She seemed to think it would be a good way to explain to men/boys what this can be like for women/girls, showing the fear, etc.

All the women are based in part on his wife. Many women have been amazed that he was not a woman using a male pen name because he writes women so well. He just wrote them as he thought women would be if men had destroyed the world 3000 years ago. Obviously, their roles would be much different than they are in our society. The women are not based on Southern women in general, just his wife.

The main impetus from the beginning was the notion of "_men_ breaking the world" (my emphasis), and that men able to channel must be killed, controlled or stopped at all costs for 3,000 years. This led naturally to a society where women had great power and respect. As an example of this, he puts forth Davram Bashere's reaction to Faile being a Hunter of the Horn. His initial negative response does not come from that Faile is a girl, but that she only is 17 years old. Her gender is irrelevant to the issue.

First, the question of Hake's inn in TEotW is answered: it is _not_ a whorehouse, at least not more than any other inn. :-) Due to the increase in women's power, the very concept of prostitution is unknown; but women have much greater freedom in choosing their partners, both casual and permanent. He specifically mentioned Mat's little escapades with various maids and serving-girls.

He also said he tried to create a world without sexism or organized religion.

"I grew up around strong women; weak men were pickled and salted. The women wouldn't waste time raising a weak boy."

Q: Will there be more talk about necklines?
Jordan answered something about it only being natural that men will notice such things. If a man sees a woman, the odds are that he'll notice things like her legs, and her mouth and her bosom. And women will notice necklines as well, usually thinking other things like 'could I wear that?'

Q: Do you have someone to advice you on writing sex scenes from a women's point of view?
A: No. And if I had she would lie to me. A woman is as likely to tell the truth about that as men are to tell them, and if you think about how many of that you would tell anyone on god's green earth about that. And if you come upon that teaspoon of liquified truth you would tell, know that that is five times the truth that she would tell you.
No, what I do is, I eavesdrop. [laughter]
One time when he was younger and eavesdropping on women, he received Veritas. He knew everything there was to know about women. And it turned his hair completely white, and beyond, so that most of it is dark again, except for that piece in his beard there, plus it also erased all knowledge he had gained straight from his head. [In other words, more and more he was really getting in a funny-story-telling mood. Maybe Jordan should have become a stand-up comedian. I don't know how much of the humor I manage to bring across, I can imagine it's very little, but if you were there you would have laughed at every other remark, just like the rest of us.]
Once in all his books, he went to Harriet saying 'Okay, in this particular situation, this is how I think this woman would react, this is how I think she would feel. Do you believe it? And she said 'yes, I do.'

Raina's Hold / Thus Spake The Creator - Index
 

1