I had the privilege of attending one of the stops on Brandon Sanderson’s recent tour. For those of you unable to attend, I wanted to recap the highlights and share some of the announcements about what happens next both for Sanderson and Jordan’s world.
Standing room only quickly became a theme at Powell’s Books Cedar Hills Store. People arriving nearly two hours early found many of the seats already taken. And yet despite the crowd, people seemed to be having a wonderful time as they waited, with a least one and generally several very thick books on laps and under arms. They talked amongst each other, united by a common love. “Have you finished A Memory of Light?” “What Wheel of Time book are you up to? Have you read anything else he’s written?”
The “he” of course was Brandon Sanderson. Author of favorites such as Mistborn and Way of Kings, Sanderson was tapped to finished Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series after the death of its creator. Now the last book had been released, the Wheel had come full circle, and somewhere between 300 and 400 fans had gathered to see the man who had completed the series and the woman who had begun it, Harriet McDougal. Working as an editor, she had discovered Robert Jordan as writer, before marrying him, editing all his books, and helping the series to completion.
Once Sanderson arrived, he began by introducing himself and Harriet. The first time he’d been to Powell’s with the release of his first book, 25 people had been in attendance. Now hundreds listened as he started by preemptively answering some of the most common questions. A Memory of Light was truly the last book of the Wheel of Time. Not only was the series complete, but no further books taking place in that world will be written. There were plans to put together an Encyclopedia of The Wheel of Time, and a “deleted scene” from A Memory of Light would be included in the Unfettered anthology later this year.
As for what comes next for Sanderson, he said the second Stormlight Archives book is at the top of the list. TOR has it slated for a fall release, but even if that is impossible, he expects it to be no later than Spring 2014. And after that he hopes to focus on the sequel to Alloy of Law. What he didn’t mention is that in addition to finishing the Wheel of Time, he has written two other YA books that are being published this year, Rithmatist and Steelheart. Which means if he makes his deadline for the Stormlight book, he will have four books releasing in one year. No wonder Patrick Rothfuss wants to eat his liver.
Next, Sanderson opened the floor for questions, and he and Harriet both answer what they can…without giving away spoilers of course! They joked about the amount of information that Jordan left behind on the series. Apparently at around 38 thousand pages of notes, Microsoft Word throws in the towel, stops counting, and crashes. Harriet shared that Jordan’s Baptist upbringing heavily influenced the conflict between the Creator and the Dark One, not to mention his characters awareness of goodness. When asked if the conflict was patterned off a game chess, she said readers would find a better comparison by looking at the Book of Job. Sanderson talked about his deep love for the books, going back to the publication of the The Eye of the World. How he used to reread the entire series before the next book came out and kept copious notes on how Gateways worked, all out of sheer fascination, naturally never dreaming that they would be needed someday.
Harriet told her story. How during her time as an editor at TOR, she discovered Jordan and helped him publish his first book, a Historical Fiction based on the American Revolution in South Carolina. How the Wheel of Time series had been pitched as a trilogy, but they allowed for six books in the contract just in case. In time, of course, that number would grow. Eventually, she and Jordan would fall in love and marry. And what was it like editing for her husband and having to tell him no? “It wasn’t about games. It was about the book. That’s how we did it. And it worked.”
Sanderson shared about how he saw writing and the fact that he had always been a “magic systems guy.” He talked about the fact he consciously doesn’t try to copy from writers he loves. If he sees something done well, he looks for somewhere else to go with his own work. Now, if it isn’t done well, he does have a tendency to try to fix it. He loves the act of creation. “Taking blank pages and making them something? That’s awesome. That’s amazing. It’s like telepathy with me putting an image from my head into yours.”
Before beginning the massive task of autographing the many books for the audience, Sanderson asked Harriet if she would read a passage from A Memory of Light. Together they pick the opening words of the first chapter. Words so familiar that the audience joined in on the last sentence.
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, and Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.