This interview was carried out by Dodge. in early 2004 via Orbit - The Wheel of Time's UK Publishers - it was posted on the WoT Message Board on wotmania on 24/04/2004. The introduction was written by Dodge. as part of the post.
I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the following people, all without whom this interview would never have taken place:
Jessica from Orbit Books - the UK’s publisher for The Wheel Of Time, who fundamentally arranged and then continued to co-ordinate the Interview.
Etzel of wotmania, many of whose questions appear below.
Spoonman and Obsidian Ashaman of wotmania, for their proofreading and suggestions.
And, of course, the wonderful Robert Jordan.
As an Administrator at one of the largest Wheel Of Time fan sites on the Internet, allow me to say that it is both an honour and privilege to be gifted this opportunity, and that we greatly appreciate you taking time out of an extremely busy schedule for us.
No problem. It was a pleasure.
1. When publishing, a commonly accepted fact is that good editing leads to good results. How much of your writing do you personally edit out after completion, in general? How much and what sort of things does your editor usually edit out?
After I finish a book, I edit very little. While I am writing, however, I edit constantly, both in the chapter I am currently working on and in chapters already completed. Whenever I make a major change to a chapter, I save the new version with a higher Revision Number, and it isn’t unusual to have Revision Numbers in the thirties or forties. I once reached Revision ninety-six, but that was on a prologue, and those are a good bit longer than any individual chapter.
2. This must be a clichéd and obligatory question by now, but: Do you keep up with what other authors in the genre are putting out, or do you tend to read material from outside of the genre on your own time? Are there any other authors that you are particularly fond of at the moment?
I read both inside the field and outside. Inside, I’ll snap up anything by John M. Ford, Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, John Varley, Tim Powers, Guy Gavriel Kay, Jacqueline Carey, Lois Bujold…. Whew! The list is getting long, isn’t it? Suffice it to say that I read a lot of writers.
3. What advice would you give to a young and aspiring writer? Also, similarly, what advice would you give to would be world-builders? Would it be wise to create a world in its entirety before even starting to write, or should you continually add to the world as you write?
My advice to aspiring writers is: (1) Write, send what you’ve written to publisher, then immediately begin writing something else. And (2) Read. Read as much good stuff as you can find time for, and try to learn from it. Also (3) Write what you like to read. If you don’t like reading it, you won’t be able to write it very well.
As for world-building, I don’t believe that you should spend the time to build your world entirely before you begin writing. I began with sketching in the greater part of the world, with a much greater emphasis put on what was important in the first book, namely the Two Rivers, Andor in general, Shienar, an overview of the Borderlands, and especially Aes Sedai and the White Tower. Now I had those initial sketches of cultures like the Aiel or Cairhien or Illian, and as something occurred to me, I added it in. Every so often I checked on what I had compiled for various countries, and used a logic tree analysis which gave me more items. If A is true and B is true, what else must be true and what cannot be true, or at least is unlikely. I did the same for C and D, E and F, G and H, then for A and C, A and D, and so forth. At some point you come to a place where one line says that, say, Item 47 must be true, while another line says that Item 47 is at best very unlikely. Resolving those conflicts are where some of the more interesting quirks in a society come from. And of course, you need to ask yourself why those initial choices are true for that culture, especially when one seems counter-intuitive, or some combination seems counter-intuitive.
This process isn’t as mechanical as it sounds, because the initial items were things that I thought would be interesting to combine in one culture, rather than simply copying an existing culture. The result is, I believe, cultures that either seem somewhat familiar but not entirely (Andor) or else almost utterly strange with only a few somewhat familiar elements (the Aiel, the Seanchan), but either way, they seem real because the internal logic of them holds together.
4. What did you find the most challenging aspect of writing Wheel Of Time? Was it the vast character backgrounds and world history, human interactions and relationships, or something else?
The greatest challenges in writing The Wheel of Time have been getting it all down on paper in a form that pleases me and doing so in a reasonable length of time while trying to make each book better than what I’ve done before. I’m seldom completely satisfied with what I’ve written, and I almost always think that one more rewrite would make it better, but there are things called deadlines, and a good thing, too, or I might never hand in a manuscript. I like trying new things with each book, too, especially tricks with time. Some of those work out better than others. The notion of starting each major segment of Crossroads of Twilight on the same day seemed a terrific idea, but by the time I realized that it would have been better to do it another way, I was too deeply into the book, with not enough time to rewrite the entire book.
5. Do you ever let compassion for a character affect or influence plot development?
Never in life. I like writing books where good triumphs, though seldom as completely as some would wish, but sometimes bad things do happen to good people. That is the touch of realism in the fantasy that helps make it feel real. One of them, anyway.
6. www.wotmania.com is a vibrant website, where fans passionately discuss the series in huge discussion forums. How often do you look at other such websites, and what do you think of the attitudes expressed there? How valuable a tool is the Internet for interacting with your fans? Does it slightly unnerve you that fans have managed to post new ideas at forums for over 6 years now?
I rarely look in the fan sites except when someone tells me that there is something I should check out on one of them. The occasional visit is all I have time for, since most of my day is given over to writing.
I do believe the websites are valuable for interacting with my fans. I have an on-going relationship with Jason Denzel and Dragonmount that has lasted for a number of years, now. This relationship has allowed Jason to bring various rumors to my attention, so I can let the fans know that I haven’t been hit by a bus, defected to China, or disappeared in a flying saucer piloted by Elvis. Both Dragonmount and Wotmania cooperated with Tor books in getting questions from readers for me to post answers to on the Tor Books website, and in finding romances that began over or because of The Wheel of Time.
It does seem very odd to me that people are still posting new ideas after all this time. Frankly, I never expected ANYTHING like this when I began writing the cycle.
7. Moving on to the plot specific, can you imitate voices with the One Power like you can imitate other peoples appearances with a Mask of Mirrors?
8. Did Ishamael come to Lews Therin Telamon’s palace in the prologue of Eye of The World to kill him?
No. To taunt him with his defeat. Ishamael would much rather have had Lews Therin alive and suffering from the knowledge of defeat, not to mention the murder of his wife and other blood kin, than simply dead.
9. Did Ingtar free Padan Fain in The Great Hunt? Or was it someone else?
It was Ingtar. Didn’t expect a straight answer, did you?
10. Did the Dark One order Asmodean's death? If not, how does he know about it in the prologue of Lord of Chaos?
No, he didn’t order Asmodean’s death, but he knows a great deal about what goes on in the world, though it isn’t complete knowledge.
11. Can Slayer somehow find his victims?
Not in the sense that Padan Fain can track Rand, and to a lesser extent, Mat and Perrin. Slayer’s value lies in what you might call his unique ability for someone unable to channel.
12. Did we see every Darkfriend who was described at the Darkfriend meeting in The Great Hunt prologue, later in the story?
RAFO. You did know I was going to give you one of those sooner or later, didn’t you?
13. At the end of Crossroads of Twilight, did the Aes Sedai know immediately who Egwene was? Or did they find the Amyrlin’s stole, and thus conclude that she was important?
They recognized her face. Remember, she did spend some time in the White Tower despite all of her jaunts outside.
14. Did the Creator talk to Rand at the end of Eye of The World?
15. What happens to objects left in Tel'aran'rhiod? Could an AS free herself from the Three Oaths in Tel'aran'rhiod by creating an Oath Rod?
The only way for an object to enter Tel’aran’rhiod would be for it to be carried there by someone who entered physically rather than through a dream state. If left there, it would remain until it was retrieved by someone else who entered physically. And, yes, an Aes Sedai could free herself of the Three Oaths with an Oath Rod created in Tel’aran’rhiod, but remember that relatively few sisters actually have access to the World of Dreams, and for those who do want to remove the Three Oaths – sisters joining the Black Ajah – there is the Oath Rod in the White Tower to serve that purpose.
16. Can Moridin use a male angreal if he channels the True Power?
17. Ishamael’s corpse in The Dragon Reborn had only pits where his eyes and mouth once were. Was this a result of the True Power? If this is true, is the True Power the reason that Fades have no eyes, but some supernatural abilities?
The True Power is reason that Ishamael’s corpse had no eyes, just as it was the reason that his eyes had been caverns of flame, but it not precisely the reason that Fades have no eyes. The True Power as well as the One Power was used in creation of Trollocs, which proved to be uncontrollable and useless as soldiers until the first Myrddraal were born, throwbacks to the human stock used in creating Trollocs, but twisted by the inclusion of the True Power in making Trollocs.
18. Does forkroot work with male channelers, too?
Thank you one again for your time and we all wish you the best of luck and success in the future.