An Interview with Robert JordanEdit
Email Interview by Michael Brunton for AUKON , March 2000
[Aukon is a review / interview based New Zealand perspective of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, anime, super-heroes, the super-natural, and the like.]
August of last year Robert Jordan was in New Zealand. At that stage I was asked if I wanted an interview with him which I gave a big yes. Trouble was we could not match up for a face to face interview so I went for the next best thing one via e - mail. This interview took place early March.
1) Did you enjoy your time in New Zealand and will you be back? I enjoyed my visit to New Zealand tremendously, and I certainly hope to return. New Zealand is the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen, and on top of that, I hope to return at the right time of year to do some serious trout fishing.
2) How are the plans for the tele-movie version of Eye of the World coming along? So far, the contracts have been signed, and I know no more. NBC has purchased an option, and while I hope the series will be made, many more options are purchased than shows see the light of day.
3) Have any actors been cast yet? Not that I know of.
4) I read a two year old interview on the web which had you say you could not see your series turn into movies; what changed your mind? The words "mini-series" and "at least four hours and possibly six." I still don’t see any way that one of the books could be pared down enough to fit into the usual two-hour theatrical release, but four or six hours makes a difference.
5) When are you hoping this project will be broadcast in the U.S. and will it be released on video/DVD? I could wish for next week, but if wishes were wings, pigs would fly. I really have no idea as to the answer of either question.
6) Where did the idea of the Wheel of Time come from? If you mean simply the concept of time as a wheel, that comes from the Hindu religion, though many cultures have or had a cyclical view of the nature of time. If you mean the books, then the idea came from many things. From wondering what it really would be like to be tapped on the shoulder and told, "You were born to save mankind. And, by the way, you’re supposed to die in the end, it seems." I wondered what a world might be like where the feminist movement was never necessary simply because no one is surprised to see a woman as a judge or ruler, a wagon driver or a dock hand. There’s still some surprise at a woman as a soldier – a matter of upper body strength, and weapons that need upper body strength – but by and large, the question of a woman not being able to do a job just doesn’t arise. I wondered what it wold be like if the "wise outsider" arrived in a village and said, "You must follow me on a great quest," and the people there reacted the way people really react when a stranger shows up and offers to sell them beachfront property at incredibly low prices. I wondered about the source of legends, about how events are distorted by distance – either spacial or temporal – about how any real events that might have led to legends would probably be completely unrecognizable to us. This is getting entirely too involved, so let’s just say that the books grew out of forty-odd years of reading everything I could get my hands on in any and every subject that caught my interest.
7) When are you hoping to have Book Nine released (do you have a title and is it possible to know what it is)? Is it also possible to give us a teaser to what the next book will be about? The next book will be called WINTER’S HEART. The good lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I expect to finish the writing by the end of May 2000, and my American and British publishers are planning to put it out in November 2000. As for teasers, read and find out. Though I expect Tor Books will post the prologue on their website, as they have done for the last few volumes.
8) Is it possible to know how many volumes the Wheel of Time will be? Sigh! At least three more. I know I’ve said that before, but it’s still the case. When I started this, I really believed I could finish it all in four or five books. Maybe six, I said, but I didn’t think it would take that long. By the end of THE EYE OF THE WORLD, I was pretty sure it would have to be six, and by the end of THE GREAT HUNT, I knew it would be more. I have known the last scene of the last book since before I began writing, so I know where I’m heading, but as to how long to get there, I am just putting my head down and writing as hard as I can. Two minutes left in the game, four points down, and we’ve got the ball on our own five-yard line; they’ve been covering the receivers like a blanket and cutting off the outside like pastrami in a cheap deli, so we’re going to do it the old-fashioned way, straight up the middle, pound it down their throats, and nobody slacks off unless he’s been dead a week and can prove it. If you know what I mean. If I can finish it in three more books, I will, but I can’t make any promises on that, just that I will reach the end as soon as I can.
9) If and when you start another series of books after the Wheel of Time series will you use some of the characters from that series? No. Absolutely, positively, never under heaven! I have no plans ever to return to this universe once I reach the end. If I have such a compelling idea one day that I simply must go back, then I’ll shift the story so far in time that it might as will be a different universe. Anything else would be doing the same thing over again. For the next set of books, I will be in a completely different universe with different rules, different cultures, different people. I expect I will examine some of the same issues – the clash of cultures, the tide of change, the difficulty men and women alike have in figuring out the rules of the game – but I certainly don’t expect to chew my cud twice.
10) What inspired you to write? I decided that I would write one day when I was five. I had finished FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, TOM SAWYER and HUCKLEBERRY FINN, and I stood them up on a table and sat staring at them with my chin on my knees – I was rather more limber, back then! – and decided that one day I would make stories like that. But by age seven or eight, it seemed to me that writers who made a living from writing all lived in Cuba or Italy or France, and at that age, I wasn’t sure about that big a move. I followed my second love, science and math, got my degree in physics and mathematics, and became an engineer. I didn’t try writing at fifteen or twenty, because I didn’t think I had enough experience; I had nothing to say. At thirty, I was injured, spent a month in the hospital, nearly died, and took four months to recuperate enough to return to my office. I decided it was time to put up or shut up about writing one day, and the rest followed.
11) Have any writers influences you? Yes, I think so. I believe that the major influences on my writing are Jane Austen, John D. McDonald, Mark Twain, Louis L’Amour and Charles Dickens.
12) Do you read fantasy yourself: and are you aware of the other fantasy writers out there? Yes, I do. If anyone is looking, I suggest, in no particular order, John M. Ford, Isabelle Allende, Guy Gavriel Kay, C.S.Freidman, Barry Hughart, A.S.Byatt, Robert Holdstock, Tim Powers, Terry Pratchett, and George R.R.Martin. There really are too many excellent writers to list them all, or even come close, but these names are a start.
13) If so would you want to work with any in the future? I’ve never really thought of collaborating with anyone. It might happen, I suppose, but it just hasn’t occurred to me.
14) Did you expect the Wheel of Time Series to be as well received as it has been? Good God, no! I’ve been told I have a healthy ego – a necessity for any writer – but I would have to be a stone cold egomaniac to have expected anything like what has happened.
15) Do the events of the outside world (i.e. current affairs, politics and the like) affect what you write in your books?
They must filter in, to varying degrees. I follow the world news assiduously, and I can’t see how I could keep events in the world from affecting events in the books. But it happens when and as I choose. Refugees in Kosovo, ethnic cleansing, famine in Africa, civil wars, upheavals, floods, whatever – you might say I use those events to give authenticity to similar events in the books. I don’t like preaching, but I always hope my readers will think a little beyond the story, and I think that acquired authenticity helps.
16) What is the best thing about being Robert Jordan and the worst? The best thing is that I get to put my daydreams down on paper and make a living from it! I’m not sure there is a downside. I suppose that people always want to know when the next book will be coming out – even when they are getting me to sign the latest book, which they have just purchased and haven’t even begun yet.
17) What does the future hold for you? Well, I’d like to catch a thousand-pound black marlin, a thirty-pound brown trout, and a sixty-pound Atlantic salmon. I’d like to shoot a twenty-four point whitetail and a perfect round in sporting clays. I’d like to get another royal Flush in poker – I got one, once – finally learn how to play go beyond the basics. I’d like to learn to sky dive, and.... Oh. More writing, certainly, for as long as I can find a way to put words on paper. I used to keep notebooks of story ideas, until I realized that I wold need three or four lifetimes to write just the ideas already had. I would like to do different sorts of writing, too. History, stage-plays. I’ve been noodling around lately with the idea of musical composition, too, something I haven’t touched in many years. Given the way medicine advances, I might have lived little more than half my life so far, which means I have a few decades remaining. Not enough to do everything I want to do, but I think I can fill them up.