A chat with the Creator

BEST-SELLING author Robert Jordan talks to www.bridlingtontoday.co.uk about his latest book Knife of Dreams - the penultimate instalment of the epic Wheel of Time series - his career and his plans for the future ...

Can you give me an idea of your daily/nightly routine when you're writing? Do you have a pages -per-day target? Do you let the writing flow and then go back and tinker or do you spend lots of time in meticulous plotting and planning?

After breakfast, I go to my desk, deal with the phone calls and e-mails that really have to be dealt with, then start writing.

Usually, this begins with going over the last scene completed to see whether I can tighten it up, make it better in some way.

By the end of that scene I am into the flow again.

I'm supposed to stop at midday for lunch, but unless someone reminds me, I usually forget until 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon, by which time it's a little late.

At 6pm I knock off, do my backup, and go into the house to help Harriet get dinner on the table.

I don't have a pages-per-day target; I simply write and see how it falls out.

Sometimes this involves lots of time put into plotting and planning while other times it is just a matter of letting things rip.

Either way, however, whatever I write will be rewritten a number of times, perhaps a great number.

I always think I could make it better given a little more time.

A big part of the appeal of fantasy is the escapism of new worlds, creatures and races. Do you enjoy the world-building process as much as/more than the actual writing? What elements of the world-building do you particularly enjoy? The history, the cultures, the maps?

The creation of cultures, making them believable yet plainly not just copies of some historical period, is as much fun as creating a believable history, and both are a lot of fun, but the actual writing is the thing.

The cultures and the history as simply background for the story.

Fantasy fans like to speculate about characters and plot lines in their favourite books. Have you ever picked up any ideas from reading fans' forums, FAQs or from the questions you have been asked?

No, I haven't. I've always known where I was going and what I wanted to do.

When I first discovered the fan websites and occasionally saw that someone had puzzled out correctly where I was going or what I intended to do, I thought about changing directions or altering the story to avoid what they had deduced.

I quickly learned, however, that as soon as anyone put up a theory on one of the sites, there would be at least one poster explaining why the theory was no good and even impossible for every poster who hailed it as the new Unified Field Theory.

So I didn't change anything after all.

Which of your viewpoint characters is the most difficult to write or does it depend on the circumstances of their scenes?

This depends entirely on the circumstances of the scenes. As far as the characters themselves go, none is either harder or easier to write than any other.

Have you ever found yourself working on and formulating an idea ... but then read it, or something very similar, in someone's else's book and thought "damn, they got there first!"?

No, I haven't.

Have there been any story lines or scenes you have to had to give up on because they were not working as you would have liked?

No, I haven't given up scenes or story lines for that reason.

I have abandoned scenes that I had planned on writing because I saw a more efficient or practical way of achieving the same end, though.

How do you keep track of all the story lines and characters? Do you have a fantastically-detailed and organised character/plot filing system, post-it notes all over your office or a 400GB brain? Has your mental capacity been used up by the Wheel of Time to the extent that everyday life becomes somewhat of a muddle? It would for me!

My wife would say that everyday life is somewhat of a muddle for any writer, and since she has been an editor for most of her life, she might have some insight.

For the rest, I have copious files on characters, nations, history, just about anything that I might need to know. Some of these are quite large.

The file listing every Aes Sedai living or dead along with every novice and Accepted along with physical descriptions of each woman, the dates of her birth and her coming to the White Tower, how long she spent as novice and Accepted, character traits and a lot more runs to about 2.5 megabytes.

The general file on White Tower, containing such things as the layout of the Tower and the Tower grounds, Tower law, Tower history, Aes Sedai customs, Ajah customs etc., also runs about the same size.

I'm not saying that the files are exhaustive - I frequently need to invent something new - but they list not only all of the information given in the books but also information that hasn't been used as yet.

The story line itself has always been exclusively in my head until it was time to begin a new book.

Then I sit down and figure out how much of the story from my head I can get into the book.

Until recently, I had been proven wrong on that every time.

I could never get into a book as much of the story as I thought I could.

So what began as an imagined six-book series … expanded.

Now I've reach the last book, and the rest of the story is sketched out on paper for the first time.

Well, paper digitally speaking.

Who is your favourite character? Have you got any favourite scenes?

My favorite character is always the one from whose pov I am writing at the moment.

Most people like themselves to one degree of another, and to make the character believable, I have to like him or her, too. They are the star.

The favorite scenes work much the same way.

At least, when I write a scene and it doesn't feel as if it's my favorite, I keep going back to it to see if I can fix whatever is wrong with it.

Have your experiences in Vietnam helped to give a psychological depth to the Wheel of Time series?

I think they must have. I've certainly used some things from Vietnam.

I know what it is like to have someone trying to kill me. Me in particular. Not some random guy. Me.

I know what it is like to kill someone. I know how the first time feels, and how that is different from the fifth, or the tenth.

These things certainly went into the characters I've written.

That wasn't deliberate.

Who you are is constructed in large part from what you have experienced and how you reacted to those experiences. Whatever you write is filtered through who you are. So the influence has to be there.

How big can we expect the final book to be and how long do you think it will take you to write it?

As large as it needs to be, and it will be finished as soon as I can finish it. I don't mean to be glib. This is just the simple truth.

Would you consider writing more Conan stories?

Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. In other words, never in life, old son.

The Wheel of Time will one day stop turning ... have you thought about what your next writing project will be?

Oh, yes. I've already signed contracts for a fantasy trilogy entitled Infinity of Heaven, which I'll start on once the last book of the Wheel is done.

Aside from that, though, there might be two or three outrigger novels to the main story arc.

I've always said that I wouldn't write in this universe again unless I had a really great story idea, but I may have had one concerning some of the major characters and some lesser characters in a story outside the main story arc.

I have to poke at the notion for a year or so to see whether it really is strong enough, because I don't want to do those books just to be writing in this universe.

There are other places I'd like to explore.

The story I've laid out for Infinity of Heaven, for example.

You can read this website's review of Knife of Dreams at the link below.