Thus Spake The Creator

How does he go about writing the books?

Q: Hi, it's such a pleasure to meet you, I'm a BIG fan. Anyway, your books have so many richly developed characters and so many complex, interwoven plot threads, could you please comment on your preliminary processes such as outlining, character biographies, etc.? 
A: I'm sorry, it just isn't that simple. I simply _do_ it, and it would take me all night to explain how, if I could.

Q: I was wondering more what your "writing life" was like...you know, like an every day kinda thing could you tell us what a normal, RJ day is like? (enjoy the rhyme?)... :) 
A: Average day at beginning of book is: have breakfast, answer letters and telephone calls, then write for six to eight hours. Do this five days a week. After a while, this gets to be: drink a quart or two of strong coffee, write for twelve to fourteen hours a day, and do this seven days a week. Eventually the book is finished or I am dead.

Q: The flow of your work is ASTOUNDING-is it as easy to write as it is to read?Are you a conduit/observer to the world you've created or is it a constant struggle? 
A: Not hardly, Jack!... I meant that it's a constant struggle.

Q: A basic question.....How do you approach Point of View in your stories? 
A: Well, I tiptoe up to it, then I grab it by the throat, throw it down, and kick it.

Q: I've always admired the incredible patience you show in your writing moving from major event to major event (like moving Rand from the Stone of Tear to the completion of events in the Aiel Waste). Do you have any precise method you use, or does that flow naturally? Do you ever write the events then fill in the spaces, so to speak? 
A: No, I never "fill in the spaces." Sometimes I have to cut events out, because I've become entirely _too_ patient, getting from one place to another. For the rest I don't really have a "method" beyond telling the story.

Q: Why did you choose to go with such an experimental style for LoC? It seems to me that LoC is really just half a book. Many characters become more fully fleshed out but very little happens. Some characters seem to develop positively, others negatively--but all within a framework of "wait, wait, wait..." How did you choose this approach? 
A: Sorry -- that's just the way it worked out.

Q: Whats it like to write a protagonist who frankly is going batty? How do you balance likability with fading competance?
A: I just try to do it in the book the way I do it in real life.

Q: How long did it take you to come up with the world for the Wheel of Time? 
A: About ten to twelve years.

Q: Do you do much research once you begin writing? What type of things do you research? 
A: Yes, because I need to research things like the details of exactly how a blacksmith works. For example.

Q: Your plots are so detailed and intricate- do you ever get confused about what should happen when? 
A: No. 

Q: Is there any symbolism or "deeper meaning" behind this series? 
A: There are layers, certainly, but I don't know from deeper meaning.

Q: Can you tell us something of how you go about keeping track of such a complex world and so many characters? 
A: Not without unzipping my head with a can opener. 

Q: How hard do you find it to integrate all the subplots and characters? I find that your books are much more sophisticated plot-wise than any of the other fantasy/sci-fi books that I've read. 
A: I don't know how hard it is; I just do it. 

Q: Is there something you've learned since, that you would now change in your first book? 
A: No.

Q: Was there anyone that helped you develop the characters 
A: No. 

Q: Thanks for many hours of enjoyment. there were so many new stories/threads in Loc did you always intend to go in these directions or did it take on a life of it's own? 
A: For the major threads, I'm going exactly where I intended to go -- and for most of the minor threads, I'm going fairly much where I intended to go. With some minor threads, it seemed, as I went along, that there was a better way than I had first thought. 

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: This obviously requires huge amounts of plotting and info outlining. Did you have any pertinent WOT info lost during Hurricane Hugo? (And did your house suffer at all?) 
A: Yes, my house suffered during Hurricane Hugo, and no, I didn't have any significant information loss. 

Q: How do you keep up with all of the plotlines, prophecies, etc.? 
A: With difficulty. 

Q: Do you use story boards, flow charts, etc. or just the FAQs?
A: No, I don't use story boards, etc. I just do outlines in the sense of synopses of what I intend to write. 

Q: Why weren't Compulsion and Illusion mentioned in the previous books before LoC and is there any specific character in the series that you have taken a liking to? 
A: Compulsion and Illusion: They weren't mentioned primarily because it wasn't necessary. Actually Compulsion has been mentioned a number of times, and I think Illusion has been mentioned in passing at least once or twice. It just wasn't necessary to deal with them in depth. The answer to the rest of the question: All of them. I like all of them. Whoever I'm writing -- that's the one I like.

Q: Did you think you were going to write only the first book without sequels? If you wife is all the female characters are you all the male ones? 
A: No, I knew from the start that I was writing something that would be multiple books. I just never knew how many, exactly. The last question: Probably, God help me. Never thought of it that way, though.

Q: Mr Jordan Just curious do you know how many words you've typed into this series, some authours have it in the Epilo? 
A: My answer is not closer than plus-or-minus 100,000 words or so. give or take a million. 

Q: My wife wonders why you left all the plot threads hanging at the end of the CoS. Others have felt that CoS is more like the middle of a book rather than a complete book by itself. Could you explain how you pace and structure your books in the WoT? 
A: Not inside the time we have for this interview! :) As with all of the books, there are some plot elements hanging and some resolved. In some, there are more plot elements tied up than others; some, fewer. It just depends on how the story line is running in that particular book.

Q: Did your interaction with fans lead you to make certain things previously hidden obvious in this book? 
A: No, not interaction with fans. There are always things that are going to become more obvious as the story goes along. I certainly don't intend to keep everything hidden until the very last. There won't be any Perry Mason revelation scene where all the characters sit down and say, "This is what happened and this is why it happened." :)

Q: Mr. Jordan, how do you come up with names for characters in your stories? 
A: I have a huge list of names. Whenever I see an interesting name I jot it down. I almost never use the name as it is, though. I change it.

Q: Mr. Jordan: How do create the personalities for your main characters? What inspires you to help make your people believeably different? 
A: I sit down and do a sort of descriptive sketch of each character. What do they believe about certain things? What do they like to do, and what do they not like to do? It's very useful as long as I make sure that a character continues to react as they would. The fault, the mistake is to decide to make a character behave or speak in a certain way because you need it to happen in the story and the devil with whether the character would do or say that. 

Q: Mr. Jordan, I think you're series is the most detailed and still the most broad in scope series currently running. How do you keep everything straight?...Also, how books do you see in the future before this "series" of the wheel is done turning?
A: I keep detailed files on every character, every nation, every culture, every facet of the world I can imagine. If I printed out all of the manuscripts of all the oft the books, and all of the notes, there would be twice as many pages of notes and of course that doesn't encompass the great quantity of things I have tucked away in my head so solidly fitted there I feel no need to put them in the notes. 

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: Are there any particular themes that you have added since the begining e.g. theme or characters that you did not have in mind when you first thought up the series? Are there any items of the story that have been cut out that you would like to tell us about?
A: In both cases, no. I have, in some cases, developed the story in ways that I did not quite intend to at first but there has been no important character who has been deleted, there has been no necessity to add in something I did not expect to add in. 

Q: I would like to see the fires in Rand's head quenched, but I would settle for them being significantly subdued. Do you find yourself WANTING to make things happen sooner so that you can delve into other areas of a character's psyche?
A: I sometimes feel impatience but I am trying to maintain the same pace, making great effort to maintain that pace, to go neither faster nor slower than I have gone before. 

Q: In the first five books, the pace of the story, switching between character situations and the action in general was high speed and covered significant periods of time. In The Lord of Chaos, the story seemed to slow. Was this intentional or only my perception?
A: It covered a shorter period of time, but in LORD OF CHAOS and A CROWN OF SWORDS there were a great many things that happen in a short time that made it necessary to have the books, if not slower paced from the reader's point of view, slower as far as the chronology is concerned. 

Q: Mr. Jordan, I have found the prophesies in your books very structured. Would you recomend a prospective author structuring any prophesy in this way? And, did you establish the main prophesies in hte series early on and think to yourself, "Now how am I going to fulfill that one?" 
A: Well, it is a matter of knowing what I wanted to happen in the story, and how I wanted the story to go, and placing prophecies that would fortell these events sometimes in very shadowy ways. As far as structuring prophecies for your own work, I think you should do it however you want to do it; it's the only way you can! 

Q: How much editing do your books get? Does the story or your writing get modified? 
A: The story does not get modified. Occasionally the writing is modified to this extent--a good editor tells you what is wrong, as another set of eyes. A good editor says, "I don't understand what you're saying here, you havne't told me enough, you haven't made me believe that this person will do this or say this." And then I go back and work at making sure the editor is convinced. Remember the editor is the first reader. If the editor isn't convinced, I doubt the fans will be either.

Q: Congratulations on CoS. It is a wonderful read. Do you find the extra several months you took to write it contributed to the overall readablility of the book and actually made it shorter in length? 
A: Possibly. It was actually a good bit more in time. With the exception of The Eye of the World, which took four years to write, each of these books has taken me somewhere on the order of thirteen or fourteen months. A Crown of Swords took twenty months. There were several things I had to work out. Too much was happening and the book would have been too long. I had to work to cut things out--and that's not as easy as it sounds. 

Q: It seems to me many authors say they write because the books they wanted to read hadn't been written yet... Is this true in your case?
A: Oh , I suppose it might be. If I were just a tad lazier of course, I could quite happily sit back and read other people's stories forever.. the truth of the matter is that I have these stories that I'D like to tell if someone had gotten there ahead of me, I might never have written or, who knows, I might have found I had another set of stories to tell that no one had written. 

Q: Does your world have defined natural laws in terms of : the One Power, the True Power, the weather, etc. or do you make them up as you go along?
A: There are set laws --there have to be -- if you write stories where anything can happen, they get flabby, you lose focus. I have certain set laws and limits on the One Power, the true power, and all of this and these limits and laws come out in pieces... they are not the focus of the stories so they only come out in bits and pieces. 

Q: How do you come up with all the details in your stories, Tel'aran'rhiod, the details of the kingdoms, and the personal histories and all that? 
A: A lot of hard work. 

Q: Considering that schedule, do you spend every waking minute on your books or do you do other things in between that prepare you to write? 
A: I do other things. I fish, although not nearly as often as I should, just for relaxation purposes, and of course I read. Actually, I have to read. If I don't read someone else before going to bed, I will lie there awake all night thinking about my own work and what I want to do next.

Q: How long did it take you to plan the Wheel of Time world? 
A: A very long time. Almost ten years of thinking about it before I began writing. And then four years to write "The Eye of the World." Then roughly 14 months each for the next five books, and about 20 or 21 months for "A Crown of Swords." You see, I have the world planned out, but quite often details are a work in progress. 

Q: Why is there such a long delay before characters return to the main story? ie: lan. 
A: Not everybody can be center stage front at the same time. 

Q: Do you completely control what the characters do, or do they occasionally surprise you with their actions ? 
A: The characters never surprise me. In terms of the book I am God. A writer who says that the characters take control is doing one of two things... either he or she is telling people what they want to hear because a lot of people seem to want to hear that the characters have taken over... or else, that writer is being exceedingly lazy and not paying attention. The characters NEVER really take over. 

Q: When you create characters, how much do you know about them? Do they ever go off in directions you hadn't expected?
A: When I create a character, I know as much as possible about them -- as much as I can possibly conceive. Characters do not go in directions that I don't expect, because I am the writer, after all. Sometimes I will see a possibility that I didn't expect to use a character in a different way, and I do like to do that, especially if it's something I don't think people will expect.

Q: How much of a framework do you have for the next book following the publication of one? Do you have a good idea exactly where you will pick up or does it take time to let things settle and pick up after a complete withdrawal from the work for a while? 
A: I have a fair notion of where I intend to pick up. And I generally have a good idea of a number of things that are going to be in the book for the simple reason that every time that I sit down and list the things that I intend to put into any given book, it always turns out to be more than I can put into that book. So, there are always things leftover that I wanted to do in the preceding book. And they go into the current book.

Q: With all the characters and plotlines, how do you keep track? 
A: I'm a genius? I just do it. I really couldn't say how. I keep it in my head, with the exception of notes on countries, cultures, that sort of thing, but the story is all in my head. It doesn't seem to be particularly difficult to hold it all.

Q: First of all, I would like to thank you, Mr. Jordan, for doing this. I have been reading (and rereading) the Wheel of Time for some time now. I am amazed by the number and complexity of characters you have created for this world. Now my question is can we assume that most of the characters that we read about in one book and then disappear in the other books will make a comeback at some point? I am thinking about Elyas and Domon, among others. 
A: Some of them will. Read and find out!

Q: Hello, Mr. Jordan. I find the magic system in the series so complex and fascinating. Could you tell us if it is something you worked out before you started writing the series, or did you just add things in as you went along? 
A: I had the basis of it before I began writing, and a good part of how it fit together. Other parts were added in when I realized that there was a question to be answered -- something that I had to decide here and now, how this worked. But I have now quite a large file describing the one power and how it works, and the things that can be done with it and the things that can't be done, and the exceptions to the rules and all that. It would probably be 300 pages if I printed it out, maybe a little more, but I never have. It's just a computer file at the moment.

Q: Mr. Jordan, how did you go about coming up with the story line of Wheel of Time? Did you think about it over several years or did you have a set time frame in which you had to develop it? Any advice for someone trying to write fantasy? 
A: My advice to someone trying to write fantasy is, go see a psychiatrist. As far as how I developed it, I certainly didn't have a deadline set. Many years ago, more than 15, not as many as 20, certain ideas started poking around in my head, rubbing against one another, and this slowly became what is the Wheel of Time. I really don't know that I could explain it any better than that. At least not if I don't go on for hours. For that matter, if I go on for hours, I'm not sure I can explain it any better than that.

Q: One of the things that sets you apart from many other fantasy authors is your command of plot. Your stories are intricate and full of hidden puzzles. How did you learn to write like that?
A: I don't know. I read. I never took a course in writing of any sort. The only literature courses I ever took in college were required courses, since my degrees were in physics and mathematics. I never wrote anything that wasn't required until I was 30. I knew that I wanted to write one day. I knew that from the age of 5. But that was someday, after I had a stable career. And then 30 came, and I sat down and started writing. Where any of it came from, I don't know. At that point, from 30 years of reading everything I could get my hands on.

Q: It seems that some of your readers don't think of your novels as fantasy so much as a really fine-grained history of a world that might have existed or might yet exist. Do you perceive your world as real?
A: I think that I have to. Any writer has to try and think of his world as real, because if he thinks of it as a construct, that's going to come across to the readers. It's very much like the question I'm often asked: who is my favorite character. It's whoever I'm writing at the moment. Even someone like Padan Fain or Semirhage. Most people like themselves, and if I don't like the character I'm writing, then it's going to come across to the reader that this character doesn't like himself or herself. My wife says she can tell when I've been writing Padan Fain or somebody like that when I come into the kitchen in the evening. I make myself see this as a real place when I'm working on it. That way it comes through, I hope, that I see more than I write.

Q: Is it ever hard for you to write?
A: No... it's hard for me not to write. I'm on tour, so I don't have time to write, but I have my computer with me because maybe I'll have time. Maybe. And the notion that I would have the time and not be able to work is horrifying.

Q: I think some of the books are a lot better than others in the series... is this because of pressure from your editor? Did you ever have to publish a book when you knew it wasn't quite finished or that it could have been better given more time? 
A: No, I've never had to publish a book that I believed was not finished. On the other hand, I always have to set myself a cut-off point. otherwise, I will keep rewriting and rewritiing and the period between the books will stretch out to, oh, five or six years.

Q: Talking about rewriting your books... I know you have a general idea about what is going to be in a book once you start writing it, but how much does it actually differ from the story layout once you get caught up in the writing process? 
A: The difference varies. Some parts are very close to what I intended in the beginning, some parts vary to a great degree. it all depends on how I feel things should weave together at the particular moment I'm writing them.

Q: How much of the series do you plot out beforehand, and how much is written as you go? 
A: Before I began writing the first book, I knew the beginning, I knew the last scene of the last book, I knew ALL of the major events that I wanted to happen, I knew how all of the major relationship would go, I knew how people would be affected by those relationships, I knew who was going to live, I knew who was going to die... You can see, I knew a good bit, including that last scene of the last book and how all of the relationships were going to end up. I have left myself the freedom to change the way that I go from one point to another, depending on what seems best at the moment. You might say it's like sketching in the larger out line of the story and leaving the details to be variable.

Q: How do you keep a series this complex together in your mind? 
A: Nothing that any genius couldn't do.

Q: Mr.Jordan, how do you feel when someone finds a minor or perhaps a major inconsistency in your books (I'm not saying there are any :P)? Do you say "Oh well, better luck next time" or do you get really upset? 
A: Sometimes people have found things that are typos, and sometimes people have found a place where a change or correction that I had intended to be put into the book was not before it was published. I always try to get those corrected as soon as possible after they're found. And, while I don't like having them there, I'm glad when someone points one out to me. As for inconsistencies, I'm afraid inconsistancies are a failure to read the books correctly. Everytime somebody has come to me with an inconsistency, I have been able to point out in a return letter where their mistake was.

Q: What do you think has been your best book thus far? Do you like writing more action or more for the human emotions? 
A: My best book is the one that I'm working on now. My best book is ALWAYS the one I'm working on now. And, as far as I'm concerned, action is always secondary. The main part of the story is the relationships between people. Those relationships sometimes lead to god-awful troubles, battles, etc., etc. but it's the relationships that are the important things.

Q: Why have you changed your writing style for the past two books? 
A: I haven't. The last two books are more concentrated in time than the previous books, but since the first book, there has been a narrowing of the time frame. So that by A Crown Of Swords, the book covered only about eleven days and we're now beginning to widen out again.

Q: How long does it take you to write a full-length novel? 
A: The Eye of The World took four years. The next five took fourteen or fifteen months each,. A Crown of Swords took 22 months. The Path of Daggers took a little less than that, but during that book I wrote "New Spring" for the Legends anthology. And I also did a lot of work on a title coming up: The Illustrated Guide.

Q: Mr. Jordan, do you outline your books before you begin writing them? 
A: Yes, and no. At the beginning of a book, I make a list of the major events that that book will cover. I've known from the beginning all the events I wanted to cover and the last scene of the last book in detail. I could have written that one fifteen years ago. I know exactly where I'm going, you see./ The list that I make always has to be pared down though, because I always believe i can fit more into a novel than I can find room to fit.

Q: Do you tend to edit your writing often or is your preference to not even look at it again once it is written? 
A: I rewrite constantly while I am writing the book. For example, the prologue of The Path of Daggers had fifteen to eighteen rewrites...I don't remember, because i constantly change things as I go along. But towards the end there are fewer rewrites, so the last chapters may have only three or four or five each. When I have finished the book, I go through it one last time and then I cut off, because I realize that I could constantly improve each book.

Q: How do you get your ideas? 
A: I opened the closet one day and found three young women, diaphonously clad who had made themselves at home. They had hung up needle point embroidery and otherwise furnished the closet. I had a discipline stick available and beat them. Now, every day, they hand me a list of ten ideas. 
Q: Have you been arrested for muse abuse? 
A: They refuse to testify. 

''I've known the last scene of the last 'Wheel' book since before I started writing the first book, and that's unchanged. I thought 'The Wheel of Time' was going to be five or six books. I didn't think they'd be this long. I was doing this like a historical novel, but I had more things to explain, things not readily apparent. In a normal historical novel, you can simply let some things go by because the reader of historical fiction knows these, or has the concept of them. But this is not the medieval period, not a fantasy with knights in shining armor. If you want to imagine what the period is, imagine it as the late 17th century without gunpowder. I had to do more explaining about cultural details, and that meant things got bigger than I had intended."

''The first book took four years. The next five books took, on average, 14 months. I finished Lord of Chaos in August 1994, handed the manuscript in, and in October, two months later, I was on tour for that book. I came back and said, 'There isn't time. I cannot write a book for you in time for you to publish it next fall.' I convinced them I couldn't do it, and it's lucky I did, because it turned out A Crown of Swords took almost two years, and so did The Path of Daggers."

''The new book, the ninth in 'The Wheel of Time', is Winter's Heart. I am aiming to finish it by May of 2000. If the publisher does what it normally does, Tor should have it out two months after I finish it. If they really want to be leisurely, they'll wait three months. The last three books they've had in the bookstore within 60 days after I handed them in. They give the book to their copy editor and she goes to her apartment, unplugs her telephone, stuffs sweat sox in her doorbell, and goes to the back of her apartment so she can't even hear anybody knocking on the door, and just works straight through to get this done. And Harriet and I go to New York and sit in a hotel room so we can get the copy-edited version back. We've got two laptops, and we're passing disks back and forth. 

''I thought, when I was going to be a writer, maybe I'd go live in the south of France and write in the mornings, and then in the afternoons I'd go down and lie on the beach and have a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead in string bikinis come down and slide the scented oil all over me. Now I work 60 or 80 hours a week, and the only time I get near the beach is if my wife pokes me out of my study with a stick!''

Q: What sort of things caused the Wheel of Time series to be so much longer than you originally anticipated? Culture description, character development, new plot developments, etc.? Or something else?
A: Not new plot, certainly. But I have been over-optimistic from the beginning about how much of the story I could get into each book. And in each case, I've found that I had to leave out things that I wanted to put into this book -- or in any given book -- and do them later.

Q: In a previous question you stated that it took you so long to write The Eye of the World because you realized a number of things you hadn't yet researched. What sort of things were these, and how did you survive the more tedious aspects of world-building (ie, lists of government official names, lists of cities and their major imports and exports, etc)?
A: Well, the tedious bits were quite easy, and it wasn't so much a matter of research I hadn't done as things that needed to be worked out -- which I thought could wait until later because they were not going to come into the books until later. But I realized once I began writing that I had to realize how those things worked and fit together NOW, because that would affect how things happened in that first book.

Q: Just want to say I really love the books. I am currently rereading them before I read WH. I hope I dont break down and read WH before I have reread the whole series. It always keeps the sub plots in mind. Now the question. Do you have anybody that reads the book that you are currently working on to make sure that the main plots and subplots are intack and that things have not been left out or added to soon?
A: That's me!

Q: Mr. Jordan, Do you have to reread your books often in order to remind yourself of everything you have done and still need to do, or do you just look back at notes as a basic reminder. Thanks
A: Sometimes I have to look back at the books themselves, but primarily that is to make sure that I remember for example, exactly what someone said to someone else, I don't need to remind myself of the story or what has happened. I sometimes do have to check on small details.

Q: Was the storyline for "New Spring" one that was created at the same time as the rest of the WoT plot, or did you come up with it specifically for the Legends anthology?
A: The basis was notes that I had made for myself on backstory, things that I had never intended to put into the books themselves, but that I needed to know to write the books: such as where did Moridian and Lan meet, and where did they come from.

Q: Mr. Jordan, of all your characters, which would you most like to see die?
A: (laughs) I can't say that I'd like to see any of them die!

Q: First off, I would like to compliment you on having such a wonderful series. I have one question for you, however, about being a writer. How is it that you made yourself transition from planning the series and what was going to happen in the series and building the history, etc; into the actual creation of the first novel? How did you know when to stop planning and to start writing?
A: Well, in this particular instance, I simply reached a point where I thought I was ready to start, and in some ways I turned out to be wrong! That's why it took 4 years to write TEOTW, I realized that there were a number of things I had to work out very far in advance from what I believed.

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: Of all the books you have written for the WoT series, which is your favorite and why? Thank You
A: My favorite book is always the book I am working on at present.

Q: Hi, Mr, Jordan, I have been an avid reader of your books since I first read The Eye of the World about a year ago. I was wondering how did you choose the colors for the ajahs, ie. why are some colors such as orange left out and gray is in. Thanx for answering my question.
A: I stuck with what you might call basic colors, and orange is not a basic color.

Q: Mr. Jordan, are you as into writing and telling us this story as you were when you started the series?
A: Yes. Every bit. I don't take time to do much else. In large part because I enjoy the story

Q: Mr. Jordan, How much of the story is already planned out in your mind, and how much is supplied as you go along in the writing process?
A: I know the major outline of the story. Various characters lives, who lives and dies, the fates of nations and I know the final scene. Minor details, or smaller details I leave until I'm writing. It flows organically that way
I thought it would take five books, by the way. I was optimistic!

Q: Mr. Jordan, How do you keep track of all the sub-plots and names and lives? Do you have a room decorated with color-coded index cards?
A: I keep track of them in my head. I have some files if I need them and I have many cultural files. But the story and the lives are all in my head

Q: Are some characters easier to write than others? As I write I find that to be the case.
A: In general, female characters are harder to write. I have a tough time getting into their skin. Obviously I've never been a women. It's also hard to get into the skinb of really evil characters. Ran is the easiest

Q: Mr. Jordan, I know that this series has been your life's work, and great work it is. What I would like to know is how old were you when you had you first "insight" to or for the series, and what inspired you to write "The Wheel of Time"?
A: I guess I began thinking about what would become the series in my 20's and that was a long time ago. I spent ten years juggling thgings in my head before I even tried writing it down

Q: When you started writing the series, were Osan'gar and Aran'gar in the original plotline, or were they added in as you went along?
A: They were in the original plot line.

Q: Did you have the entire storyline, bar a few details, before you even started writing Book One?
A: Yes. There were a good many details I didn't have, but the story line, the major events; those were all in my head. I could have written the last scene of the last book more than 15 years ago. And what happens in that scene would not be any different from what I intend to happen now.

Q: Has this saga taken on a life of its own over the years?
A: I am not sure what you mean. If you are talking about the claim by some writers that characters take on a life of their own and begin writing the story then, No. I created the story. I created these characters, and I am an Old Testament God with my fist in the middle of their lives. The characters do what I want. The story goes where I want.

Q: Do you have a favorite of your books?
A: The books that I am working on at the moment. Every book has been my favorite while I was writing it, and when I finish it, well, I'm done with that and it's another book that's a favorite. It's the same way with the characters. Whoever's point of view that I'm writing from is my favorite character right then, even if it's somebody nasty. Because to write from a character's point of view you have to be inside that character's head, inside their skin, and that means that you have to like them, because most people do like themselves. And if you don't like that character you're writing, if you really don't identify with that character for that time, then the character -- I believe -- comes across false.

Q: How do you keep track of everything? There are a lot of characters in your books, so what do you do? Do you keep a chart on the wall?
A: No. No. No. Mainly I do it in my head. I have voluminous notes on my computer. But I realize 95 percent of the time that when I go to the notes, it is actually to add in new things that I have decided to say or do about a character or a nation or a culture or an organization. These things can get huge.
I do not usually go in to find out things. It's as if the act of having put the information into the file has helped me remember it. I don't say that it's 100 percent. I do have to sometimes go in and check to be sure about a particular character, somebody who's not a major character, exactly how did I spell her name? Or, did I say what color his eyes were?

Q: From your biography, I did a lot searching on the internet, there are lots of books about you... that you can't remember the timelines exactly.
A: Well, no, I can remember the time. The timelines? [sounding very surprised]
Q: Yes, or is it all in your head?
A: Yes, it's in my head.
Ah, I was about eh, ... critical method flowpath charts. For the books.. by some engineers, it seemed to be obviously necessary that... but ... the flowpath charts were too complex to do on the computer.
I finally figured out that doing the setup on the computer for the flowpath charts, which would have to be three-dimensional, at the very least, for the books, would take at least as long as writing one of the books, so it was easier to put it in my head, where I could at least have a better zoom facility than I could possibly have, ... a better resolution than on a computer screen.
Q: So you in your head you have a better capacity, you think, than on a computer?
A: Yeah, for my books that is, at least...

Maryson (once again mentioning his own writing and how he does that; but I guess that was to be expected) asked about if Jordan also liked to surprise his readers.
A: I do. I like to make the reader think that he or she knows exactly where I am going, exactly where I am taking them, and they're certain that I'm taking them to that corner of the room over there, and suddenly they blink and realize that I've taken them to _that_ corner of the room instead, and yet when they look back, they see it was all there, yes, all of it, very clear that I was taking them to _that_ part of the room, instead of that part of the room. So, it's like .. it's like making your wife think that you're taking her to Paris, but in actual fact you are taking her to Rotterdam. [laughter]

Q: The balance between hard work versus inspiration... which does Jordan think is more important?
A: Oh, I think hard work plays a big part, I try to write at least 8 hours a day... [6/7 days a week, blabla]
Inspiration comes from hard work.

There's a strict border between my writing and the rest of my life certainly, but the story involves itself in my head. And I continually think about it. I'm always thinking about how I'm going to structure things, how I want the flow of words to work, the rhythms and patterns of words. The difficulty is, I must... I have two rituals at night that are necessary. If I fail.. The first is that I read.. someone else. And I must read for several hours. And then having read for several hours, work myself from the books, I must make sure that there... for half an hour or so, I won't drift back with my thinking to my own books. So I drink a very, very large brandy... Yes, 6 or 8 ounces. And just straight down. And this makes me sleepy enough that I will drift off, and that's the night.

I many ways I think of these books, I spy myself in any of these books as being a sort of Jane Austin, but I've added everything, all that stuff about battles and politics and what not more and the Dark One, and what's really fascinating me, what's really interesting is the people. Working on one another, and reacting to one another.

There was a question about if his characters ever managed to surprise him. [A pretty valid question, as authors like Maggie furey and Robin Hobb are constantly brought in problems by their characters being so vivid for them that they do things the author doesn't want them to do.]
A: No. I'm thw writer. I'm supposed to be a professional at this. I am not tap-dancing around blind. I'm not like one of those tap-dancing chickens, you know.
You know, I am doing something that, supposedly, I am knowing how to do. And if I surprise myself in any but the most minor fashion, then I must have been asleep for the last few days. And writing as a somnambulant.

It's hard really for a figure that I've been researching for the Wheel of Time. I see things, I notice things. I realize 'I can use this.' An example I've used to you before, but it's a good one, is that [after leaving Tanchico, Nynaeve and Elayne needed] traveling companions. I wanted them to travel with some people, rather than by themselves. I wasn't too sure exactly what sort of group I was going to use. And I happened to go to the circus.
And the circus happened to have a lot of acts that .. from Asia. I don't know why they seemed to have such a disproportionate number of acts from Asia. They were much different than most European circus acts and American circus acts, which are very similar to European circus acts. And when I went to my desk the next morning, I realized I knew exactly how Elayne and Nynaeve were going to travel. With Valan Luca's show. I have read for close on to fifty years, everything I could get my hands on. Various bits and pieces have been stuck in my head. And I use them. And sometimes... and if I see anything that's interesting, and a lot of things interest me, cultural anthropology, development of cities, how a windmill works, how does a waterhwheel work? these things interest me, as much as how a modern day skyscraper is built, or how do you go about building a base on the moon, or how do you go about building an industrial facility in an L5-point. Sometimes I do research and then.. Well, I know nothing about blacksmithing really... [followed by that story you've heard before]
No matter what you know, if you're an expert blacksmith, I want you to read right past that blacksmith scene, and believe it. And of course very few people will be expert blacksmiths, but that's fine. Because no matter what the scene is, I want you to believe it. No matter what your own knowledge is.

Maryson asked the same question about inspiration versus hard work again.
A: ... muzes are more fickle than the average woman. They tease and run away. What you have to do is say 'I'm not going to chase after her, and I'm not going to wait for her to come back. I'm going to sit down here and do some bloody work, until she gets back.' and if she doesn't get back, you know... 'damn, I've done a lot of pages, haven't I?' While waiting for her, you work. Writing is work, more than anything else. If you have the ability, you can do it well. It is a craft. It's like building cabinets, or building furniture.

A question about if his writing improves.
A: Well, I hope to god, cause if I'm not, I'm a bloody hopeless case. I try to be better. I want each book I write to be better than anything I've done before. I don't always achieve it. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't
[At this point my memo-recorder apparently began having troubles recording, cause playing it now, the speed just seems to keep on increasing. Hearing Jordan talk in this chipmunk voice may be very funny, but it plays hell on my ability to type it all out.]
At one point, obviously I will reach the end of my abilities. That is, I will plateau. That I will have gone as far as I can go. I'll still try. You never can tell... You might eak out another tenth of a second, you know.

A vague question I didn't tape nor remember:
A: Well, I don't know that I'm constantly searching for this sense of wonder. I just like stories, you know. I'm trying to tell interesting stories about people who I find interesting. And, well I hope other people find interesting, too. And a sense of wonder... well, if it happens it happens.

Q: Do the 'lesser' characters in the books have any real significance in driving the story forward or are they just there for packing? I like them myself, but many on the sites seem not to. Are they there just to add a touch of relief from the main players?
A: the lesser characters usually have real significance in driving the story forward. I am not talking about someone who appears for 4 pages and then vanishes but secondary and tertiary characters have real purposes

How much do you have to do with the Glossary of each book? Do you write it yourself, supervise it or just don’t have anything to do with it?
I write it myself, yes. Of course, there are some difficulties when I do. I ask my editor and my assistant, both of who get the manuscript to read, simultaneously. I tell them: "Give me a list, what do you think should be in the glossary? What really needs to be in the glossary." And I take a look at old glossaries, to see if there are things in the old glossaries that should be in the new glossary, and I’ll try to put together something, add in and take out terms, these sort of things. And add in terms that they think should be in the new glossary. They usually come up with a lot of the same things, apart of a few different ones. And there is also the difficulty of how much time is available, with the last four books, last five books I guess. And that is that for each of the last five books - I don’t do the glossary until I finish the book - each of the last five books, there’s been two months from me finishing the book, to the book being in the stores. It’s been, in some of these cases, a week from me finishing the book to the second pass [..] and that means there is hardly no time at all, to write the glossary.

Reports from signings

The POV is usually determined by the slant he wants to give to the information. Sometimes he plans for one character to have the POV, but has to switch to another.

On the question on how he could keep track of every person, culture, nation etc RJ answered that he had a file for every person, nation, city, culture etc describing it. In the case of persons traumatic experiences, origin, favorite foods and colours, family, education etc is stored. Every person that appears several times, or has the chance to appear several times has a such file. Similar information is stored on the other entities. This information is used to flesh out the characters etc and make them three-dimensional before the book itself is written.

There is nothing he would have done basically different with hindsight in the writing of TWoT. Originally TEotW was half as large as it was printed, but the later books have been written so "tight" from the start that it has been impossible to shorten them. His writing technique with the WoT books he described as "simply stretch out and run".

The amount of notes he held on persons, countries, cultures, cities, events etc he approximated to be as large as the amount of text in the currently published books.

I asked him how much of the setting, etc was worked out before hand, and how much he does as he goes along. He said that he has a 10pp or so history of all the countries/regions, and societies. When the plot goes into a region, he fleshed out the outline.

Jordan has lots of notes for the series. He began by writing approximately 10 pages (of notes) of history about each of the countries in his story, more for the places he was going to use first. Right now his notes fill more pages than his manuscripts, he says.

Strike At Shayol Ghul was written from the perspective of a scholar trying to attract funding for a more complete version (ie, grant money) and was his first piece of short fiction.

He went on to repeat what he has said before--knowing the end, knowing all the major events, yadda yadda.  However, what he did said that was new (at least for me) was that the _order_ of events was _not_ set, and that he allowed some fluidity for them.  He made a remark about a cousin of his (who is an engineer) who came over and saw all the notes and work and asked why RJ hadn't created something called "critical flow charts" or some such.  RJ replied that the nature of the story was too complex for such linear breakdown.

He seems to have a half a dozen answers for the question, "Where do you get your ideas?"  The one that tickled me was that he sends off to a mail order company from Trenton, NewJersey (I think) for some large amount  of money, at three ideas per page.  I looked askance and remarked that Ellison gave the same answer, except his ideas came from a warehouse in Peoria (which I'm sure I've read somewhere.  Think it was Ellison.)  He shot back, "Yeah, but did you notice that mine are more expensive?"

Q11: [At this point, people were managing to wedge their way in between me and the table (coming within three inches of RJ), so I didn’t really get the whole question. Something along the lines of:] Are you making this up as you go along, or do you have everything planned out?
A11: Everything is planned out. RJ has humongous files on his computer dedicated to certain topics. Example: 2 files for the Aes Sedai. The first one has info on each AS. Everything she wears, eats, where she was born, etc. The second is history of the Tower. Halls, Amyrlins, organization, etc. He then said he was lucky to get a LS120 drive, because these files were getting too large for 1.44’s.

Q12: [Some question on perspective and what happens]
A12: [basically] What a character sees and thinks happened is not necessarily what did [made a big deal of this, as if it wasn’t a “duh” point again. This screamed ‘Sammael’ at me for some reason.]

Q18: [Regarding whipping from one character POV to another, and why he’s sticking with one for a longer amount of time now]
A18: I’m not changing characters just for the sake of changing them. There are things I want you to see, but it’s important whose eyes you’re seeing them through.

Someone asked if Jordan thought of himself as Thom, because of the white hair.
"I think of myself as Lan. [laughter] The truth of the matter is that Lan.. Lan embodies the ideals I was raised to aspire to. "
He also mentioned Harriet thinking of him as Loial.
One standard question or another leading to the usual anecdote of him assuming the identity of his characters, getting inside their heads:
"before they saw me, they had assumed that Robert Jordan was the penname of a woman, because, they said, no man could write women that well. "
Although I seem to remember an interesting bit here about you not wanting to meet him after he'd just written somebody like Hannibal Lector. Sometimes he'd come down for dinner and Harriet, without him having said a word, would say 'You've been writing Padan Fain again, haven't you?' And although it would not always be Padan Fain, it would be one of the non-pleasant characters.

The first thing I heard when I came in was a question about how he researched things. He talked about Perrin making that barrelshave in TDR, said that he'd done a lot of research into 18th and 19th century blacksmithing (and couln't find anything from before). Then he wrote the first version and sent it to a blacksmith (do those still exist in this day and age? I feared the profession had died out completely), who gave a lot of useful critique.

Hoe many times does Jordan rewrite each chapter?
As many times as needed. Each time he makes a _major_ change, he saves the file with a new revision number. For Winter's Heart, the prologue had 97 revisions. This was by far the largest amount, most chapters only have 9 or 10 revisions.

Does he use books to fix things from earlier books? (Clearly asking about the Shaido's attack at Dumai's Wells, although I'm not sure Jordan realized this)
No, he doesn't. He sometimes tries to clear up misconceptions that people have gotten (he does admit that there have been times that he has made mistakes [put down a wrong eye-color (probably a reference to the Faile/Moiraine gaze at Perrin in TDR) / blinked and missed an editor's typo], but this is not what he's talking about). But he does try to use things that have been there a long time, and he likes to plant seeds, so that things don't fall out of the blue sky (the major reason I love WoT so much). Giving us the little tidbits of information that don't mean anything now, but that in three books will come around again.
The question about how many of these seeds there are got RAFOd.

Is Jordan's writing emotional or mechanical? Does he sometimes find it 'boring', wishes he could hurry it up, knowing where this or that will be going?
No, it's not mechanical, he has a lot of fun writing, trying to get into the heads of his characters.
The standard 'Harriet saying you've been writing Padan Fain again, haven't you' anecdote came along, now I remember that the character he mentioned actually writing was Semirhage.

He begins to realize more things about a character as he writes it. The major characters were in his head from the beginning, the secondary level and even most of the tertiary characters as well. The minor characters you'll only see for a page or two are however often invented on the spot.
"So you don't consider Shaidar Haran a major character?"
Ah, oh yes, he's a major character. Definitely a major player.

Q: Don't you get totally absorbed in the books when writing them?
A: Well, I do... It's getting absorbed in the work, really, rather than getting absorbed in the world. I focus. When I used to play football, american football, we were calling it "in the zone". It's a total focus, so that eh... In football, American football, everybody else is suddenly moving half a step slower, almost as in slow-motion. Peripheral vision extends. I can see facial twitches. I know who has the ball. I mean, I can see him, it's almost as if a faint glow comes up, but I can't hear the crowd. It's all dead silence, but I can hear the other players breathing, and ... it's a very strange situation.
You get in the zone with the writing and here I am at my desk. My computer, the monitor. And here is a window looking into the side-garden [waving to the left], and over there [waving to the right] is a glass-paint door, looking into the long-garden behind our house. Now we have had heavy rainstorms and windstorms that drenched everything, that broke branches, were beating bamboo against this window [the left], there had to be bamboo hitting against this window, had broken branches down on the driveway over there [the right].
[...] and he never noticed any of it when in the zone with writing.

The role of the editor is the first set of eyes, to tell you what you are too close to the book to see. The person who tells you that yes, you made a beautiful leg, and yes the it is perfectly, but you're ignoring the fact that it's longer than the other three legs on the table.

Oh, Rando, I'm really sorry about this, but Jordan overthrew your toh-toes argument. Pratchett was talking about you having to take care in fantasy not to use words like sandwich, unless you had the sandwich guy appear in your story. Jordan disagreed: the writer is simply translating... "And their word for a bit of unidentifiable meat wrapped inbetween some... two slices of greasy bread would translate as 'sandwich.' But that's not what they call it at all, that's just what you call it in english. "

Raina's Hold / Thus Spake the Creator - Index
 

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