Sunday, November 15, 2009
Old Salt, one of our authors, was very happy to be chosen as a Stormleader for the New York Booksigning. This is his report.
I’m a lucky man. Not only did I get chosen to be a StormLeader, but I also got to be chosen to be one for the NYC signing. New York City, location of the Tor HQ. Not only would Harriet be at the signing, but I’d also get to meet Maria Simmons, RJ’s assistant and fact checker, what she doesn’t know about WoT doesn’t exist…literally. Not only did I get to meet Harriet and Maria, but the StormLeaders were invited to a pre-signing party put on by Tor. I got to meet many of the people behind WoT. I even got to meet and talk to Tom Doherty, the head of Tor. Like I said, I’m a lucky guy.
Maria Simmons is quiet and self effacing. But she starts to get quite animated when the subject swings around to Wot. Her face lights up and she speaks more quickly and with great authority. I wish I had had a couple of hours to speak with her, but alas, time was tight and the events were strictly scripted.
Maria, (pointing finger) Tom Doherty and Harriet (also pointing finger) having fun at a Tor staffers expense. Brandon in the black leather jacket with his back to the camera
Maria models her Brown Ajah Shawl
I also said I got the chance to talk with Tom Doherty. What a treat that was! I get the feeling that parts of Tam al’Thor and Gareth Bryne are modeled after him. A lot of life, very good sense of humor, and it doesn’t seem that anything much bothers him. We got talking about the ‘earlier days’ of Fantasy/SciFi. He’s of an age with me and we reminisced about the likes of the double back to back novels, authors like L. Sprague DeCamp and H. Beam Piper.
Maria, Tom Doherty, Harriet and Tor staff, Brandon peeking in from the upper right
I wish I could say that I got to spend some time with Harriet also but alas as the photographer, I had work to do and time was tight. I can say that the other StormLeaders who did get a chance to talk with her were impressed with her friendliness, dedication and general joy of life.
Harriet with a few StormLeaders
The party was lots of fun. There was even a Dragon cake.
After the party there was a small catered dinner for us StormLeaders and team Jordan. This is what I was really waiting for, a chance to pepper Brandon, Harriet and Maria with questions about Wot in general and TGS in particular. I only and a few questions…two pages in #10 font single spaced! Of course everyone else had questions too so as we ate we asked him questions. It was a Wot geek’s dream come true. Since most of you are waiting for this part I’ll get to it without further ado.
Brandon is a very funny guy. First of all he said he would reveal Asmo’s killer
then there was a perfectly timed pause…
“Asmo’s killer is Robert Jordan!”
It got a good laugh. Brandon’s sense of comedic timing is very good.
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
Note that some of the following questions and answers entail plot points from The Gathering Storm if you haven’t read it and don’t want to know what happens stop here.
Q: “Was Mat’s blank dice bit taken from Guys and Dolls?
A: “I’ve never seen Guys and Dolls”
Q: The next question was about the criteria that the Ajah Heads used to determine which sitters they sent to the rebels in Salidar.
A: Basically the Ajah heads had a small selection pool to start with. Their primary criteria were: a) loyalty to the Ajah Heads, would they do as they were told? b) would they be acceptable to the Aes Sedai in Salidar? c) finally did the Ajah Heads think they could be persuasive?
A comment was made about age, Brandon’s answer was to reiterate the limited nature of the Ajah Heads selection pool, the fact that most of the AS Sitters that were sent were young was coincidental. He did go on to mention that the “too young Sitters” was a completely different matter.
He then went on to say which Sitters remain in power after reunification will be dealt with quietly. The most likely default will be who was Sitter/Head before the split.
Q: “The Sea Folk, and the Aiel both have prophecies regarding the Dragon Reborn. Do the Tinkers have one also?”
Ans: “If the Tinkers had a prophecy we most likely (and the emphasis was definitely there) would have heard about it by now.”
There was a question about the Dragon Gates on the Rigney house. They had the gates made after several of the books had been published.
Q: Harine appears once just after she arrives from the Sea Folk. What happened to her?
A: Harine has not been forgotten. There hasn’t been a lot for her to do, and Rand is not keeping his side of the Bargain of keeping her close.
Q: What first hooked you on the series?
A: As a young teen it was the Hero’s Journey. He also mentioned that the Eye of the World prologue was special, much different than the usual for that time which were “talky” overly drawn out. What kept him reading in later years was the depth of world building and all the embedded secrets.
Q: What gave you the confidence to write? What kept you sticking with it after being turned down all those times?
A: “I fell in love with the process of writing. I would write even if I couldn’t sell any of it. Of course it makes it easier that it does sell” (Laughter) He then went on to describe that Elantris was the first thing he had ever sold, the 13th piece that he had submitted and the 6th novel. He went on to say that he doesn’t read any bad reviews of his work. “If it has a low star count I pass it by” He said that there could be thousands of rave reviews and only one negative one but he would focus on the negative and ignore all the raves, so he has learned to only read the “good” reviews. He also said that when he needs encouragement he will find a book he really likes and thinks is absolutely stellar and he will then read a one star review of it. “You can always find a one star review, no matter what it is. Even Hamlet has gotten one star reviews” (laughter)
He went on to talk about how the fans comment on that “you are not RJ” He agrees with them. “I’m not RJ and they have every right to be angry that I’m not.” He then said that they need to finish their grieving process and get over with it. He agrees that the book isn’t as good as what RJ would have done but he is happy with it.
Q: How much leeway were you given when writing the book?
A: He was given complete freedom to write, but that he was in constant contact with Maria and Allan about details. He compared it to a broken vase, much of it could be glued together but there were places where there were holes that needed to be filled in.
Maria interjected with the fact that there are well over 1200 files that are at least several sentences long and many many more that are shorter than that.
There was some back and forth with Harriet and Brandon about the writing/editing process. Harriet said a good editor never tells an author how to write. Brandon said that he actually writes the book for Harriet and it’s Harriet’s job to perfect it.
Q: “How much of tGS is yours and how much is RJ’s”
A: “I’m not going to break it down at this time. Maybe after all three books are finished I’ll go into that. For now I can say that 100% of the book is RJ’s and 100% of the book is mine.” (he later repeated this at the signing with the added comment that if that didn’t add up correctly he didn’t care because he was an English major…to much laughter)
It came up at this time that Maria is writing a WoT encyclopedia, to be published shortly after aMoL. Harriet interjected that it will be a “real encyclopedia” not like the “World of the Wheel of Time” her exact words were “Think Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition”.
Q: Will there be either prequels or outrigger novels?
A: Brandon said that he didn’t know but he hoped that the answer would be no. His reasoning was that WoT was RJ’s universe and that after aMoL and the encyclopedia it should be “allowed to go to rest” however he did say that the final decision was Harriet’s. Harriet said there was a Kenny Rogers song that fit perfectly here. “Know when to hold them and know when to fold them”. She said that she hadn’t made up her mind yet and would not until after aMoL and the Encyclopedia were published.
Q: “Do Rand and Egwene’s timelines end up at the same time at the end of tGS? Secondly, can you give us some idea as to when that is?
A: Yes they end up at the same time. I’ll have to give you a MAFO for an exact date for the second, but basically it is sometime in late June early July. In addition Tuon’s scene with Rand was about 3 or 4 weeks before her last scene in the book.
A relatively long discussion of timelines followed. Basically RJ would have the timeline within a story arc follow chronologically but “Jim was crafty” when it came to the overall timeline. Maria has a huge spreadsheet of a timeline but it is not publishable because it is very rough and unintelligible unless you’ve been working with it for a long time.
Q: Is there a Perrin wolf dream/vision that is fulfilled in the time from when Rand almost kills Tam to his epiphany at the top of Dragonmount?
A: If you mean Perrin’s dream with the bandage over his eyes, and dressed like a beggar than yes, that dream was fulfilled by Rand’s actions from Tear to Ebou Dar to Dragonmount.
Q: You mentioned a clue that occurred in books 4-6. What can you tell us about that?”
A: Brandon mentioned that he isn’t on the web constantly so he can’t state for certain whether or not it has been discussed. However he doubts very strongly that it has ever been discussed at length. That being said he did say that he was ‘very surprised’ that it hasn’t been discussed. Basically he thought it more important than ‘who killed Asmodean”.
Q: What did you think would happen at the end before you read the ‘real ending’?
A: Brandon talked a long time about how the first place he ever went on the web was rec.arts.rj. He talked about how RJ stood on the shoulders of giants, mentioning JRR Tolkien by name and he also said that he was surprised that RJ’s genius hadn’t crushed the giants beneath him. When he finally read the ending that RJ wrote he felt the ending was right, perfect and satisfied the promise of the books. He went on to say that aspects of the ending surprised him but that they made perfect sense.
The final question of the night was asked to Harriet:
Q: “Was Jim surprised by the massive fan base the series has generated?”
A: Oh yes. He even refused to do readings because “that would be showing off and egotistical”. However he enjoyed the anonymity of a pen name.
After that question it was time to get our stuff together and walk down the Barnes and Noble on 17th St. for the signing. Well, most of us walked Harriet and Brandon took a cab appropriately enough.
As you can see our questions ranged all over the place but Harriet and Brandon and Maria were very gracious in answering all of them.
End of Spoiler Alert
At the Signing
Brandon took about 10 minutes to make a few opening remarks. He had us in stitches! On his initial conversation with Harriet:
“Harriet left a voice mail on my phone. It is burned into my brain, I can remember the exact words she used and the tone she spoke them in”
He then went on to explain what “writer hours” meant to much laughter. Then
‘So I called Harriet back. No answer. So I immediately called my agent. No answer. I then called my editor. No answer. So I called Harriet again. No answer. So I called my agent again. No answer” He now has us all laughing with him in his obviously frantic attempt to get in touch with someone, anyone about this.
Finally he and Harriet hook up. Harriet asks him “I want to know if you would be interested on finishing The Wheel of Time.
“Haba abba but but but bab it What?”
He went on to say that he wrote her the next day to explain that he actually was NOT an idiot. That it was possible for him to string several words together into coherent sentences. That actually some even considered him eloquent. I wish you had been there because it was much funnier in person than my poor words can convey.
Harriet then read from Masema’s death passage in The Gathering Storm.
After the reading they answered questions from the crowd for about 15 to 20 minutes. Unfortunately I was doing my job of photographing the event and I was unable to take notes. Or even listen closely to what was being said.
They then explained how the signing was to happen. Everyone was given a sticky with what ever personalization they wished on it. Brandon would sign The Gathering Storm and any of his books the fans bought. He would personalize any three. He would not sign any earlier books in the WoT series, but Harriet and Maria did.
After that it was our job as StormLeaders to expedite the signing, make sure that the fans had their stickys personalized and accessible to Brandon, that the books were stuffed with the bumper stickers and other give-aways.
The signing went off very well I thought. People were well behaved, mostly cheerful and friendly. I didn’t see anyone in costume. Also during the signing one large and several small posters were raffled off from names drawn from Maria Simmons RAFO hat
Maria picks a name and the lucky winner.
And his jealous friends!
Some of us StormLeaders were blogging the event.
Finally at around 10 pm the signing was over, except for the books we StormLeaders had brought. Those were signed, a few last inside photos shot and then we all packed up.
After packing up we all went outside for a few final photos. Having gotten up at my usual 4AM, I then said good night to everyone, thanked Brandon Harriet and Maria one final time and then dragged myself off to the closest subway station for a long train ride home.
For anyone who is interested, full resolution of the photos posted here, and many others from the signing, can be found here: