Interview: Brandon Sanderson

The new custodian of the Wheel Of Time series talks exclusively to SciFiNow.

As you said, you’re a fan of the series, and there are thousands more around the world. Is there an added pressure when writing them, or do you just have to blank it out and do the best that you can?

Certainly, I do the best that I can. There is added pressure. Again, when I write my own books, I’m not beholden to anybody. I write it, and if it doesn’t work out, or if it’s not my best book, that’s actually okay because I like to try lots of different things. I like to be bouncing around and experimenting with things. But with the Wheel Of Time books, that’s not appropriate, I am beholden to people, I am beholden to all of these fans that you’ve mentioned. It’s not appropriate to just take this series and go wherever I feel. I have to take this series and be true to Robert Jordan’s vision, while being true to myself as a writer, while also making sure that I’m being very respectful to the fans, to the all of the people who have been following the series for 20 years. They rightfully have a stake and a passion in the series, and it’s a lot different from writing a standalone novel. I do feel a lot of pressure – the series belongs to the fans much more than it belongs to me.

And there’s another book after this one – A Memory Of Light. Is your involvement in the series going to finish after that?

I would say it’s very likely that will be the end. A lot of people have questions about this, because Robert Jordan had talked about several other books relating to The Wheel Of Time before he passed away – prequel novels, and a trilogy of three books set in the Wheel Of Time world along with several of the characters, but not part of the main continuity, the main story. A lot of people ask about these books, they ask Harriet – Robert Jordan’s widow – but the thing is, we really both feel, Harriet and I, that we don’t want to exploit Robert Jordan’s legacy. To use a metaphor that may be a little obvious, it’s like we’ve been given the One Ring, and we have to let go eventually. The longer we hold on, the harder it will be to let go, and the more we start doing those books, the easier it will be to do reams of stories, and we just don’t want that to happen. I’ve said before that the beauty of a piece of art is in its completion, in many ways. If it’s not allowed to be completed, then the beauty of it won’t be able to stand as a monument to what Robert Jordan achieved. So my instinct right now is to say that no, there won’t be any more. If Harriet decides to do those other five books, and really wants to, then I would probably say yes if she asked me. I love the series, I’m passionate about it, but I’ll leave that up to her, and I certainly wouldn’t do anything beyond those. We’ve spoken about it, and I said that we have to be really careful or we’ll start and keep going and going, and that’s her feeling too.

Sure, but how have you found writing in the series? Being a fan, it must be quite a remarkable experience to be able to do this.

Yeah, it’s been wonderful. It’s been amazing, and surreal. Surreal is a really good word for it because I grew up reading these books – these characters are like my high school friends. Being asked to write these books – and I didn’t apply for this, I was just asked totally unexpectedly. She just called me on the phone, I hadn’t met Robert Jordan and I didn’t know that I was being considered. I was considered because I was both a writer in my own right, and a somewhat loudly professed fan of the series. But I hadn’t ever considered it, you know? It’s so weird – Robert Jordan is still this mythical figure to me. He’s this magnificent, almost non-human person, a hero, a greek god sort of figure – when I was growing up I’d say, “That is what I want to be someday”. I would love to be one tenth of what Robert Jordan is, and it was a driving force for me becoming a writer, my love and respect for this amazing writer. And now I’m working on the series. Part of my brain just slips out every day, running around in circles saying, “I can’t believe we’re doing this! I can’t believe we’re doing this!” And that’s partially out of fear, partially out of pure excitement. I don’t know many people who get an opportunity like this, it doesn’t happen. It’s like Lucas asking you to direct a Star Wars movie, and the closest thing that I can think of, coming back to Tolkien, is the people who were asked to finish The Silmarillion – Christopher Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay working on that, that’s the closest thing that I can think of to what I’ve been asked to do. It’s just an amazing honour.

Next: Putting your own series on hold, and A Memory Of Light.