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What advice would you give Rand concerning his relationship with Aviendha, Min, and Elayne?
- Step very carefully. It’s hard enough for a man to deal with one woman at a time, since we aren’t really equipped mentally to keep up without a lot of effort. A man could get trampled very easily trying to keep up with three, not least because they have their own relationship with one another, and no matter what he does, he will not ever in a million years be able to understand that, or be able to avoid cutting his own throat on it. Luckily for him, I do, and I can. For him, anyway.
Is there any scene in The Wheel of Time that was particularly difficult to write? Why? Are you satisfied with how it came out?
- Too many scenes were difficult to write for me to list them. There’s seldom any warning which they will be; I have begun scenes that I was sure would be difficult only to have them roll out like a carpet, while other scenes, I’ve thought would be a snap only to have to carve them out of stone with my teeth. As to why, now…if I knew why, then they probably wouldn’t be difficult, now would they? The strange thing is that the scenes which were difficult often turn out to be the best. So Harriet says, anyway. At least a dozen times I’ve told her that I needed to work more on a particular scene only to have her tell me that it was some of the most beautiful writing in the book and I mustn’t touch it.
Did you see The Lord of the Rings movie? What did you think of it? What is your favorite fantasy movie?
- Oh, yes; Harriet and I only waited long enough for the crowds to thin out a little before we went. After all, we both read the books the first time back when they first became available in the United States, and I myself have re-read them perhaps a dozen times since. I thought the movie was most excellent! It is well-crafted and well-acted, it follows the books to a fair degree, and the changes, for the most part, were necessary to fit it into a reasonable length for a movie. Making Arwen more prominent was necessary, too, since she is barely there in the book, but at least they resisted the temptation to make her a sword-babe, though it appears that took quite an effort. At the moment, I would have to say that my favorite fantasy movies are Fellowship of the Ring and Excalibur, an old film about King Arthur. Rent it some time and take a look.
What is your favorite scene to this point in the books? Are there any scenes that you like to go back to and reread, because you like them so much?
- My favorite scene, like my favorite character, is always the one I am working on at the moment. Once I am done with a scene – and I’ll admit that can take some time – I don’t go back to read it unless I want to check on exactly how I worded something. (The exact wording can turn out to be crucial, later on.) I don’t think my ego is particularly mild – ahem! – but I certainly don’t sit around reading what I have written for the enjoyment of it. I mean, I wrote the bloody thing! I know what’s going to happen and why!
What in any of the books do you wish you could change?
- I would change a great deal, and at the same time, nothing. I would change nothing because (1) I am satisfied with the story, since it is running exactly the way I want, if a bit longer, and the characters are developing exactly as planned, and (2) once I am finished with a book, I don’t spend any time worrying over what I could have done differently. I’m finished with it and put it out of my head, by and large. There’s a new book that has my attention, now. And I would change a great deal because I’m never satisfied with the writing itself, with the flow of words. I always believe I can do it better. Just have to run through it one more time, and maybe one more after that, and maybe….if it weren’t for deadlines, and Harriet doing her patented “editorial vulture perched ont eh back of the writer’s chair” imitation (with apologies to Charles Schulz), I suppose I could keep re-writing the same book for five years. Maybe ten.
After Crossroads of Twilight is published, how many more books will there be in The Wheel of Time series? Will there be another spin-off series or another completely unrelated fantasy series?
- After Crossroads of Twilight, there will be two more books, knock wood, God willing and the creek don’t rise. I never intended The Wheel of Time to be this long. The story is progressing the way I planned, but from the beginning I believed I could tell it in many fewer words, many fewer volumes. When I finish Wheel, I have no plans for spin-offs or sequels. I intend to go on to something new. My plans are for another fantasy series, though shorter than Wheel, it is to be hoped. It will be set in a different world with different cultures and different problems, though it will be in many ways another story of the clash of cultures, cultures undergoing change. And I suppose the difficulties that men and women have understanding one another will play a part, large or small, since they have done so in every book I’ve ever written, with one exception. My editor – Harriet, for those who don’t already know – also says that it will be a chance for people to see inside the Seanchan Empire. It won’t be the Seanchan Empire, of course, but it will be the same sort of stratified, hierarchal culture, even more so than Seanchan.
As your editor, how much influence does your wife Harriet have over the final draft of each book? Do you collaborate on the plot elements before each book is written?
- As my editor, Harriet has a great deal of influence over the final draft of each book. She is my editor, after all. She is the one who says things like, “You can do better here” and “You didn’t convince me here.” But no, we don’t collaborate on plot elements. Occasionally I will hash over a scene with her, or check with her to see whether I have had a female character react in a way that she, as a woman, will believe that a woman would react, but she would no sooner put her nose into trying to lay out my story than I would stick mine into trying to set up her poems. We’ve never come to divorce – at least, I haven’t; I can’t say about her – and we both think it best to keep clear of motives for murder.
How does your knowledge of physics influence your idea of channeling and the Talents involved in the books, such as Traveling, Skimming, etc? Do you have other hobbies or talents that influence your writing?
- My knowledge of physics influenced channeling to the extent that I have attempted to treat channeling as if it were a form of science and engineering rather than magic. You might say that the Laws of Thermodynamics apply in altered form. I expect that my reading in history has influenced the books more than my knowledge of physics or engineering. I have not tried to copy any actual historical culture or period, but a knowledge of the way things actually were done at various times has helped shape my vision of the world of The Wheel, as has the study of cultures meeting that are strange to one another, and cultures undergoing change, willingly or, as is more often the case, unwillingly. I used to spend summers working on my grandfather’s farm, a very old-fashioned set-up even then, so I have some feel for country life, and I like to hunt and fish, and spent a good part of my growing up in the woods or on the water, so I have a fair feel for the outdoors and the forests, which also helps. And of course, I can use a little of my Vietnam experience. Not for setting out the actual battles, but because I know firsthand the confusion of battle and what it is like to try to maintain some semblance or order while all around you random events are pushing everything toward chaos.
Do you feel that fantasy literature is heading in a more feminist direction? If so, what role has The Wheel of Time series played in that? Did you consciously focus on creating strong female characters? Who do you think is your strongest female character? Who is your favorite female character?
- Whether or not fantasy is becoming more feminist, I couldn’t say. If it is, I certainly don’t know whether The Wheel has played any part. There have been fantasies based at least in part on the feminist struggle for many years, long before I began writing these books. In fact, I have been accused of ignoring the feminist struggle, though that isn’t exactly true. I simply decided to write in a world where the feminist struggle occurred so long ago that no one even remembers it. People in this world may think that a woman acting as a guard on a merchant’s train of wagons is odd, but just because it’s a rare sight. (When weapons depend on upper body strength, as swords, spears, halberds and bows do, the people who end up wielding the weapons are usually those with the greatest upper body strength.) But if a merchant or a magistrate or a dock worker is a woman, that’s just part of the description. I mean, the most powerful single group in this world for the last three thousand plus years is all-female. The Aes Sedai are actually the most sexist bunch in town, in many ways. In the eyes of most of them, a Warder is a man. The very notion of a female strikes them as peculiar and even uneasy-making. Which might just be the remnants of knowledge of what the differences are between a bond that links a man and a woman and the bond that links two women. (RAFO, guys, though the clues are already there. And by the by, a bond linking two men is also different, just not different in the same way.)
Do other authors offer you advice or suggestions on how to write your books?
- I’m not quite sure what I would say to another writer who offered me suggestions on how to write my books. When you are first starting out, you try to learn from other people, but once you get to a certain point, learning becomes more a matter of honing your own skills, and your confidence has usually advanced by this time to the point where you no longer seek the advice of others. (HEADLINE: Mark McGwire attacks Barry Bonds with baseball bat after Bonds offers advice on swing.)
What other authors have most influenced your work?
- Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Robert Heinlein, John D. McDonald and Louis L’Amour.
Are any of your characters or cultures designed to pay specific homage to any particular work or author?
- No. In the first chapters of The Eye of the World, I tried for a Tolkienesque feel without trying to copy Tolkien’s style, but that was by way of saying to the reader, okay, this is familiar, this is something you recognize, now let’s go where you haven’t been before. I like taking a familiar theme, something people think they know and know where it must be heading, then standing it on its ear or giving it a twist that subverts what you thought you knew. I must admit that I occasionally drop in a reference – for example, there’s an inn called The Nine Rings, and Loial is seen reading a book entitled To Sail Beyond the Sunset – but it isn’t a regular thing by any means.
Are all of Mat’s memories from his past lives?
- No, Mat’s “old” memories are not from his past lives at all. The “sickness” he got from the Shadar Logoth dagger resulted in holes in his memory. He found whole stretches of his life that seemed to be missing. When he passed through the “doorframe” ter’angreal in Rhuidean, one of the things he said – not knowing that the rules here were different than in the other ter’angreal he had used – was that he wanted the holes in his memory filled up, meaning that he wanted to recover his own memories. In this place, however, it was not a matter of asking questions and receiving answers, but of striking bargains for what you want. What he received for that particular demand was memories gathered by the people on that side of the ter’angreal, memories from many men, all long dead, from many cultures. And since not everyone passing by has the nerve to journey through a ter’angreal to some other world, the memories he received were those of adventurers and soldiers and men of daring.
Are there Wolfsisters? Could an Ogier become a Wolfbrother/sister?
- There are no known Wolfsisters so far, but there is no reason there couldn’t be a Wolfsister. Ogier, however, cannot become linked to wolves in this way. Theirs is a different way than that of humankind.
In the scene during which the taint is cleansed, Cadsuane uses a ter’angreal that detects the One Power being channeled and the direction it is coming from. She watches the ter’angreal, and when the enemy channels, she points, and someone attacks. Why doesn’t it point to the huge amounts of the One Power that Rand and Nynaeve are channeling – far more than the Forsaken are being pegged for?
- Cadsuane’s ter’angreal was made during the Breaking of the World, at a time when men and women no longer linked, or at least very rarely, since male channelers were going mad at a rate of knots. What the maker was particularly interested in detecting was men channeling, but a man channeling in combination with a woman was, by definition, safe, because no woman was going to link with a man unless she knew absolutely that he was sane and not going to go over the edge into insanity while they were linked. Thus, saidin and saidar being worked in combination could be ignored, and in fact would be a distraction, since this was and is a warning device. Cadsuane’s ter’angreal won’t point to the two halves of the Power being wielded in combination.
Does ta’veren-ness ebb and flow as needed? If Rand, Mat, and Perrin were all ta’veren growing up, it seems that the Two Rivers would have had a lot of odd events occurring, but no mention is made of it.
- You might say that ta’veren-ness ebbs and flows. For one thing, remember that even for someone like Rand, the effects are really occasional, not continuous. Even when he is causing dozens of coincidences in a particular place, many more events pass off quite normally. For another thing, no one is born ta’veren. Rand, Mat, and Perrin only became ta’veren just before Moiraine appeared. You become ta’veren according to the needs of the Wheel. Like the Heroes linked to the Wheel, who are spun out as needed to try to keep the weaving of the Pattern straight, a man or woman becomes ta’veren because the Wheel has “decided” to use them as an influence on the Pattern. And, no, the Wheel isn’t sentient. Think more of a fuzzy logic device that uses feedback to correct what it is doing in order to do it in the most efficient way.
Rhuarc indicates that an Aiel in Rhuidean sees the past through the eyes of one of his ancestors. Is this true for the women as well? What would a non-Aiel see, if anything?
- Yes, a woman would also see through the eyes of her ancestors, at least in the “forest of crystal spires” ter’angreal, and she, too, would live the history of the Aiel, in effect. Someone who wasn’t Aiel could wander through those spires forever and never see a thing except the spires. He or she might think it was a monument, or maybe a work of art. Just for a reminder, women who are chosen out to be Wise Ones have to go to Rhuidean twice, the second time for the spires and the first for another ter’angreal, one that makes her see all of the possible paths her life could take all the way to their conclusion. She can’t possibly remember all of them, of course, but some things she will remember and know that it would be very bad for her to make that particular choice when it comes, or alternatively, very good. This is the ter’angreal that Moiraine went through.
Why don’t the Forsaken every just open a gateway for floods of Trollocs to pour through, instead of messing with the dangers of the Ways?
- RAFO, my child. RAFO.