Hailing Frequency Interview - featured in the Walden Books sci-fi/fantasy newsletter, issue 4 in Oct/Nov of 1993
HF: In many places in "The Wheel of Time," a careful reader will spot echoes of other myth cycles--the sword in the stone, for example. Do these things happen fortuitously or are they laid on in advance, intentionally as it were?
Jordan: Well, they were laid on in advance. There are elements from Norse, Chinese, Japanese, and American Indian mythologies, to name just a few. I think it adds resonance to the story, although I've taken great care not to follow the older material in any slavish way. Occasionally, I will add in details here or there, and then discover that I have done something that is absolutely authentic to the myth I was working from. This is not automatic writing or channeling or being guided by something from the Great Beyond, it's simply that I have done a great deal of reading on these subjects and things bubble up in the back of my head all the time.
HF: How would you compare this multi-volume spinning-out of a single story with the "Conan" books, where you did a number of individual works that were part of a larger, but rather looser, series?
Jordan: No comparison. I've made an effort to make each book stand by itself, but at the same time, I've tried to make each one a real part of the whole "Wheel of Time." In something like the "Conan" series, the books are really independent; there is no real relationship between them. In this series, while you could read _The Shadow Rising_ first, and enjoy it, I think, you are going to get more out of it if you have read the first three books. You will pick up things that will seem different because of things you know from the first three books, things that are different from what they seem on the surface. There's a slightly different cast to things that people say and do.
HF: Having seen your series grow from what you thought might be five books, to seven, do you find yourself rearranging events in your original outline so each book has an independent structure with climaxes and growth of its own?
Jordan: Yes, to some extent, but it's worse than that. I originally thought of it as one book. Well, but the time I went to the publisher, I realized that, no, one book wouldn't do it. I really thought it would be two, or three maybe, but I wasn't sure. But yes, there has been some rearrangement of events-suprisingly little though. I have been startled at how little I have had to shift the major points. Of course, a lot of them are floating, if you will. That's partly because, in the outline, the high points are not fixed-I never intended them to occur in a specific order. They were things that I knew had to happen for the development of one character or another, but there was always some allowance in my mind for things to shift.
HF: Your characters were fairly young when the series started. Did you do that with the idea of picking up an audience that would grow along with the series?
Jordan: I receive fan mail from every possible age: kids who aren't in junior high school yet, and people who are seventy or eighty years old. But I made the characters young, fankly, because I wanted them to be innocents. I wanted the characters themselves to look at the world around them with as much amazement as I could muster-the Candide "gimmick," in a sense. But it was also to emphasize their change.
My editor was commenting on how much, in the fourth book, the characters have grown, and how much the readers' view of things in this world has changed from the first book. It's not because the things themselves have changed, but because the characters whose eyes we're seeing these things through have changed. So while thereare still things they look at and say, "Golly!" on the other hand, there are things I had them doing in the first book that they're quite used to now, and don't at all see the way they saw them then.
HF: ...There's an enormous geographical and historical sweep in this book. How much of this was define when you began? What kinds of things are you finding in those obscure places on the map that the characters are getting to for the first time?
Jordan: Well, the cultures, the people they meet in different countries, were only very sketchy in the beginning. They're really no more divergent than the United States, France, and Germany were before you had television and movies. So there are well-defined national distinctions of dress and behavior and on top of that, national reputations in other countries. You know Americans are so and so, Germans are like this _fill in the blank... As far as the rest of it goes, there is perhaps more of a difference in the cultures than is explained by the size of the continent. In an earlier book, one of the characters talks about humanity falling back and shrinking, that nations were not there any more. National borders don't always run straight up to one another, and there are sometimes very large unclaimed spaces between countries. That sort of thing makes for mroe isolation, and of course, isolation makes for cultures being more different.