Enter into Neth Space and you will find thoughts and reviews of books and other media that fit the general definition of speculative fiction. This includes the various genres and sub-genres of fantasy, science fiction, epic fantasy, high fantasy, hard sci-fi, soft sci-fi, new weird, magical realism, cyberpunk, urban fantasy, slipstream, horror, alternative history, SF noir, etc. Thoughts are my own, I'm certainly not a professional, just an avid reader avoiding his day job.
Monday, January 07, 2013
Interview: Brandon Sanderson on The Wheel of Time and A Memory of Light
advantage of having a blog like this is that over the years I’ve gotten to know
a lot of people. And when the fan in me finishes reading a book I’ve been
waiting almost 20 years to read, I know who I can email to possibly have a few questions
answered. While, I suppose that this is an interview, it may be more helpful to
view this simply as a conversation that I’m making public. These aren’t questions
that I thought long and hard about and these aren’t questions that are designed
to serve as a resource to fans, etc. These are simply some questions/reactions
that I had while reading A Memory of
Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (my ‘non-spoiler’ review,
Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon), which I assume that you all know is the
14th and final book in The
Wheel of Time (WOT) series. Ideally, this would have simply been an
in-person conversation that I had with Brandon, but of course that wasn’t in
the cards. So, they probably aren’t the questions you would have asked, but
they were questions that I had.
Beware the spoilers!
This short Q&A discusses A Memory of
Light (AMOL) and there are spoilers in the questions and answers. Some of
the spoilers discussed are pretty big reveals – the details may not be
discussed, but a few significant events are revealed.
Brandon and his assistant Peter for making this happen. Enjoy!
Neth Space: How much have ideas that you or other members of Team Jordan
first saw in fans discussion influenced the book? Spoiler follow-up: Such as
the tactical use of gateways?
Brandon: Tactical use of gateways is honestly all me. I hadn’t even
played Portal before I wrote these
books. I have since went back and played it, and they’re doing some of the same
fun stuff. That was me from years and years ago as a guy who likes magic
systems reading the Wheel of Time books and saying, “If I had gateways, this is
what I would do.” In fact, I had built up some magic systems using things like
gateways that I will never be able to use now, because I got handed the master
magic system with gateways.
was somewhat uncomfortable with my use of gateways, in a lot of ways. They felt
I was pushing them. But my response back was that I didn’t want to push the
magic system in other ways; I didn’t want to be inventing a lot of new weaves.
I didn’t want to be doing a lot of things like that, because I felt it would be
taking the system too much in the directions I take the Brandon Sanderson
systems. I really do like Robert Jordan’s magic system, but I wanted to take
some of the specifics that had already been done, such as gateways, and say,
“Here’s where you can extrapolate with them.”
As for other
things that have been discussed in the fandom—I certainly wasn’t as big a part
of the fandom as I am now, not anywhere near it. For instance, I didn’t care
about Asmodean until I started talking to other Wheel of Time fans, and it was a big deal to them, and so it became
a big deal to me. There are certain things that through fandom and talking to
other fans you tend to rally around, that I kind of wanted. One was a reunion
between Tam and Rand. There are other things like that, that for a long time
we’d been waiting for and we’d talked to each other about, and we’d imagined
what they’d be like. Those sorts of things did influence me; I had to be really
careful not to be too influenced though. Being too influenced would lead me to
put in lots of inside jokes, things like Narg—that would have been letting the
fan in me run too wild. So I did have to rein that in.
for me to separate the years of talking about the Wheel of Time with friends and reading about the Wheel of Time from what I eventually
ended up doing in the books. Once I did start working on the books, I didn’t go
plumbing through fan forums looking for things that should be included. I
specifically stayed away from things like that, though I did suggest to Maria
at times that she should watch and see what people were expecting, so that we
would know what things we were not going to end up fulfilling, and could be
prepared for them.
Neth Space: You have a tendency to break the 4th wall at times in
your WOT writing. How did you come to this choice as it’s not a technique that
Robert Jordan used? How have Team Jordan and fans of the series reacted to
Brandon: My answer is that I disagree with you. I don’t think any of
those things break the fourth wall. Robert Jordan put fan names in the books;
he named things in the books after streets in his hometown; he named characters
after people he knew. That’s how he wrote these books, and it’s how I’ve
written all of my books. It’s just how you get inspired as a writer. With
Roedran, I honestly think that’s what Rand would think and say; it’s what he
would come up with. It’s one of the big theories I felt was really what Rand
would consider in-world. So I just have to disagree with you; I don’t think
that any of this is breaking the fourth wall.
Neth Space: As I was reading AMOL there were many times where I was fairly
overcome with emotion – which is not too common of a reading experience with
me. To use a WOT phrase – laughter and tears. Sometimes I just had to set the
book aside for few minutes to let the motion calm down. I’m not novelist, but
through this blog and my day job I do write a fair amount. I’ve experienced
that sense of pride, that sense of emotional overload that happens when the
writing feels right, when my emotions for what I’m are writing cross over onto
the pages themselves. I imagine that as you’ve written the final three WOT
books you’ve experienced similar feelings. That you sometimes sit down to
dinner with your family after writing and are overcome with your love for them
as a result of what you had just written. That you have that urge to hug, love
and be comforted as events from you’re writing stick with you. Assuming you can
relate to this, please share a moment or two.
Brandon: Boy, that’s a hard one, because those are going to be personal
moments. You describe it quite well, but it’s the sort of thing that happens
with writing any series. The most personal moments for me honestly happened
when I read the ending years ago. For me, the series has been finished already
for all of that time. It has been an emotional experience, and I’m certain it
will continue to be one.
have to remember that writing this was very draining, and that has kind of the
opposite emotional effect. But I’m not a terribly emotional person. I’m not
sure I can come up with anything specific other than that night sitting and
reading the ending that Robert Jordan had written.
This is spoilery,
but there’s also the moment when I wrote Egwene’s death scene—that was probably
the most emotional scene I wrote. I finished it, and then it was like a “wow,
so that just happened” sort of moment. I don’t know if I can describe it in the
reading the book, these moments are going to come like unexpected smacks to the
face. For me, I spent five months working on the outline for this book
specifically, after I had spent months outlining the other two books. So I knew
what was coming, and that makes it a different experience.
Neth Space: Spoiler follow-up: What specific scenes in your writing proved
to be the most memorable? What are a few of your favorites from the final three
books in the series?
Brandon: Perrin forging his hammer is probably my favorite that I worked
on extensively. My favorite that Jim worked on extensively would be Verin’s
last scene. Rand atop Dragonmount at the end of The Gathering Storm is a pretty big one for me. In the last book,
my favorite would have to be Lan’s charge right at the end, which is a scene
that I worked out years ago, that I pointed a lot of things toward, and
specifically in this book built a lot of things around. For a fun scene,
getting Mat on the back of a raken was a pure joy for me to be able to do.
scenes really stand out to me? Robert Jordan’s last scene, which I’ve mentioned
before, is a great one because it’s become the focus, for
me, for the entire sequence that I have written. From the beginning, that was
the ending that I was working toward. So I was very excited to be able to
actually get there.
a few scenes; there are a lot of them in this book and the series.
EDIT: Thanks to the folks over at Macmillan Audio I have an audio sample from Chapter 3 to share with (no big spoilers). I love the audiobooks and have been using them as 're-reads' for years, so give it a shot.