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Robert Jordan chats about his 'Wheel of Time' series

December 12, 2000
1:00 p.m. EST

Several years ago, when Robert Jordan wrote "The Eye of the World," he had no idea that his idea for a fantasy series would grow to nine books (and counting) and that an entire cottage industry would appear, devoted to his creation: the Wheel of Time. Now, every book that comes out -- the latest is "Winter's Heart" -- is an immediate bestseller, and that sound you hear is servers whirring with the constant e-mailing and message-posting of his fans, discussing the many aspects of Jordan's creation.

Jordan recently chatted with some of his fans on CNN.com about "Winter's Heart," the Wheel of Time, and the story behind the story.

Chat moderator: Welcome to the CNN chatroom, Robert Jordan.

Robert Jordan: Hello, It's good to have you all here, and thanks for having me.

Chat moderator: How did you develop the idea for the Wheel of Time saga, and where did you get the name?

Robert Jordan: The name comes out of Hindu mythology, where there is a belief that time is a wheel. Many older cultures believe that time is cyclic, that it repeats. In fact, I believe the best thing the ancient Greeks gave us was (the idea) that time was linear and change was possible.

Question from Infidel: What would happen to a gholam suddenly deposited, one way or another, into a stedding?

Robert Jordan: Read and find out. That is a common answer for me, by the way!

Question from Vercingetorix: Why do you think everyone has a hard time figuring out who killed Asmodean? Graendal killed him.

Robert Jordan: I don't know why people have a hard time figuring that out. To me it seems intuitively obvious even to the most casual observer. The reason I won't tell people though is that I am enjoying watching them squirm entirely too much. It's probably bad for me.

Question from Rhodric: What a kind of numbers militarily do the Seanchan have on this side of the aryth?

Robert Jordan: I don't want to answer this as it could be a spoiler for those who have not read far enough.

Question from logain: We know Taim isn't who he says, and so does Rand. But wasn't Logain supposed to reveal him as a liar? What happened to that?

Robert Jordan: Read and find out. Don't you love it, guys?

Chat moderator: Were you influenced by the Bible book of Revelation? Your works seem to have many scriptural allusions.

Robert Jordan: There are a number of influences from the Bible, but from other sources as well. My work is not overtly religious in any way.

Question from Arsolos: It has been reported that you have confirmed that Sammael died at the end of Crown of Swords. Could you confirm that you have said this and elaborate on whether Rand was correct?

Robert Jordan: Mashadar killed Sammael. Sammael is toast!

Question from dawntreader: Why does it take you about a year to two years to issue the next book?

Robert Jordan: Because it takes that long to write it. The earlier books also took a long time, but what was happening there was that the usual space between handing in the manuscript and the book being published, was shrinking in my case. Normally that is nine months to a year. For my last four books, however it has been two months from me handing in the manuscript to me being on tour.

Question from hoping: Where are the Trollocs? I miss them.

Robert Jordan: Read and find out! They're coming.

Question from Jonan: Mr. Jordan, is it possible that in another age, another turning of the wheel, that Saidar could be tainted instead of Saidin? This relates to the Female Dragon Theory.

Robert Jordan: That is not something I intend to explore.

Question from RawShock: What got you into writing fantasy?

Robert Jordan: Fantasy is an area where it is possible to talk about right and wrong, good and evil, with a straight face. In mainstream fiction and even in a good deal of mystery, these things are presented as simply two sides of the same coin. Never really more than a matter of where you happen to be standing. I think quite often it's hard to tell the difference. I think that quite often you can only find a choice between bad and worse. But I think it's worth making the effort and I like to expose my characters to that sort of situation.

Question from Telchar: Will the Choedan Kal be used again during the series, and if so, will other access keys be found? Let me guess ... read and find out?

Robert Jordan: This is my answer: You got that one right, sport!

Question from E_Tej: I see that many of the story lines are derived (from) mythology around the world. Which culture do you draw from more?

Robert Jordan: I'm not certain that I draw from any one culture more than others. Many myths and legends of many different cultures are really the same story when you get to the heart of it. They are often cultural cautionary tales about how we should behave and how we should live.

Question from twayne: When you started writing the series, were Osan'gar and Aran'gar in the original plotline, or were they added in as you went along?

Robert Jordan: They were in the original plot line.

Question from Cameo_Vox: The Isle of Maddness is mentioned in the coffee table book. Do you have any plans on incorporating it into one of the next books?

Robert Jordan: Read and find out! There are some things I might do that might take place there, but those things could also just as well be done in other places.

Question from Uno: Has there been any serious discussion about making a WoT movie?

Robert Jordan: Yes. Not a movie as such, but a miniseries. NBC has purchased an option to do a miniseries of "The Eye of the World." Most options are not exercised, however. If you want NBC to make the miniseries, write to them and say "make the miniseries of 'The Eye of the World.' "

Question from El-Loko: Did you have the entire storyline, bar a few details, before you even started writing Book One?

Robert Jordan: Yes. There were a good many details I didn't have, but the story line, the major events; those were all in my head. I could have written the last scene of the last book more than 15 years ago. And what happens in that scene would not be any different from what I intend to happen now.

Question from Rodynus: Was the name of Far Madding a literary allusion to An Elegy in a Country Churchyard?

Robert Jordan: No. That straight-out answer shocked you, didn't it?

Chat moderator: Has this saga taken on a life of its own over the years?

Robert Jordan: I am not sure what you mean. If you are talking about the claim by some writers that characters take on a life of their own and begin writing the story then, No. I created the story. I created these characters, and I am an Old Testament God with my fist in the middle of their lives. The characters do what I want. The story goes where I want.

Question from Elzabet: Does the healing of the taint reverse its previous effects? Or does the victim have to live with whatever he's gotten to that point and be grateful it won't get worse?

Robert Jordan: The second.

Question from Almindhra: Do you think literary critics take you seriously as a good writer despite your writing of fantasy?

Robert Jordan: Some do, and some don't. That's the way it always works. But I would like to add there is a lot of fantasy out there that does not call it fantasy. The magic realists are fantasists. (A.S) Byatt is a fantasist. A good many mainstream literary writers are fantasists. So maybe the critics won't put things down, just because they are fantasy, quite as readily as they once did.

Chat moderator: Why do stories of the titanic battles between good and evil seem to attract such a large and loyal audience?

Robert Jordan: Because most people believe in good and evil, in right and wrong. And I think most people would like to believe that they would stand on the side of good -- of right -- however they happen to define those things.

Question from GH: Mr. Jordan, what are the most crazy reactions you have received from your fans?

Robert Jordan: I suppose it's the people who believe that I am telling them the absolute truth: that there is a thing called channeling, and that I can teach them how to do it. I'm not a guru. I'm not a sage. I'm not a teacher. I am just a storyteller.

Question from MengLor: Where do you come up with the original spelling of the names of the characters?

Robert Jordan: Some of them come out of myths and legends. And others come because the sound is somewhat familiar, or because I like the sound of the name.

Question from Sil7ver: Is it true that many of your chracters are based on Norse mythos?

Robert Jordan: Not many. Some. And no character is purely based on one myth or one legend.

Chat moderator: What do you want readers to see in your books?

Robert Jordan: A good story.

Chat moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Robert Jordan.

Robert Jordan: Thank you very much for having me.

Robert Jordan joined CNN.com by telephone from Charleston, South Carolina. CNN.com provided a typist for him. The above is an edited transcript of the interview, which took place on Tuesday, December 12, 2000.



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Robert Jordan's 'The Wheel of Time': Fantasy, epic-style
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