||Thus Spake The Creator
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
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
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
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
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
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
A: I just try to do it in the book the way I do it in
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?
Q: Is there any symbolism or "deeper meaning"
behind this series?
A: There are layers, certainly, but I don't know from
Q: Can you tell us something of how you go about
keeping track of such a complex world and so many
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?
Q: Was there anyone that helped you develop the
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
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
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
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,
A: With difficulty.
Q: Do you use story boards, flow charts, etc. or just
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Q: How long did it take you to plan the Wheel of Time
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
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
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.
When you create characters, how much do you know about
them? Do they ever go off in directions you hadn't
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.
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?
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.
With all the characters and plotlines, how do you keep
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.
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.
Some of them will. Read and find out!
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?
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.
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
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
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
Q: How do you keep a series this
complex together in your mind?
A: Nothing that any genius couldn't
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
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
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
''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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
[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
dont 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 Ill 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 dont
do the glossary until I finish the book - each of the
last five books, theres been two months from me
finishing the book, to the book being in the stores. Its
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
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 didnt really get the
whole question. Something along the lines of:] Are you
making this up as you go along, or do you have everything
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 1.44s.
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 wasnt a duh point again.
This screamed Sammael at me for some reason.]
Q18: [Regarding whipping from one character POV to
another, and why hes sticking with one for a longer
amount of time now]
A18: Im not changing characters just for the sake
of changing them. There are things I want you to see, but
its important whose eyes youre seeing them
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
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
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
The question about how many of these seeds there are got
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
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
"So you don't consider Shaidar Haran a major
Ah, oh yes, he's a major character. Definitely a major
Q: Don't you get totally absorbed in the books when
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
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
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