It is done.
If you go
WHAT: “Wheel of Time” book signing eventWHEN: 10 a.m. today, library opens and tickets for book signing are distributed; 3 p.m., Q&A with the authors; 3:45 p.m., book signing (up to three books per person)WHERE: Addlestone Library, 205 Calhoun St.COST: FreeMORE INFO: http://bit.ly/UKiYHz
The 14th and final installment of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series of fantasy novels is out.
Six of the books reached No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list. Something like 44 million copies have been sold worldwide. So far.
Jordan, a Charleston native whose real name was James Oliver Rigney Jr., died in 2007 while working on what he thought would be the last book. His widow (and editor), Harriet McDougal, felt it was her obligation to find a successor, someone talented and sensitive enough to finish the project. She designated fantasy author Brandon Sanderson and bequeathed him her husband’s copious notes.
It was soon decided there was too much material to squeeze into one 800-plus-page tome, so Sanderson and McDougal opted for a concluding trilogy. “Gathering Storm” was published in 2009, and “Towers of Midnight” came out in 2010. The newest and last book is “A Memory of Light.”
Recently, McDougal donated her husband’s vast collection of manuscripts, objects, interviews and books to the College of Charleston.
“We’re having a really hard time containing our excitement,” Harlan Greene, special collections senior manuscript and reference archivist, said in a statement. “In this collection, we have the literary manuscripts of one of the most popular writers of our time and a native of Charleston. Just as Jim blended fact and fantasy and the past and the future in his works, we now plan to employ both ‘futuristic,’ state-of-the-art technology and classic archival procedures to preserve the collection and make his papers as accessible as possible.”
On Tuesday, Tor Books released “A Memory of Light,” and it is cause for a party honoring Rigney and McDougal, longtime Charleston residents, and the young writer whose career is in full swing.
Today, the College of Charleston’s Addlestone Library will host a “Wheel of Time” extravaganza book-signing event. McDougal and Sanderson are expected to be there.
The event, which begins at 10 a.m., also will feature a Q&A with Sanderson, McDougal, Maria Simons (Rigney’s assistant) and Alan Romanczuk (“Time Lord” or chronology master and researcher); a display of selected works from the James O. Rigney Jr. Papers, including early “Wheel of Time” manuscripts, swords, scabbards and other treasures; T-shirts for sale; and clips from a Robert Jordan documentary called “The Wit of the Staircase.”
McDougal said this enormous project, which resulted in 11 titles written by her husband and three by Sanderson, has ended well.
“It is a great conclusion to a set of books that people all over the world have been following for over 20 years,” she said from Provo, Utah, where the book tour kicked off last week.
Provo is Sanderson’s hometown, and “Wheel of Time” fans have been hankering for days to get their hands on the last book. Seven people were camped out in tents a full five days before the book release, McDougal said. About 100 people were in line outside the bookstore by 7:30 a.m. Monday, waiting for the midnight rush to the stacks.
McDougal said she asked Sanderson to finish the series after a friend brought her a eulogy of Rigney the young fantasy writer had published. The feelings expressed in the eulogy “were just exactly what I would have hoped for,” McDougal said.
She called Tom Doherty, Tor publisher and founder. “What do you think of Brandon?” she wanted to know. He recommended she read Sanderson’s series, “Mistborn.”
“I read 47 pages and fell asleep,” she said. But that was a good sign. Bad writing keeps her awake, worried, anxious, she said. When she awoke, the mists were absent, all was clear in her mind — the characters, the initial plotting and action. “By gosh, this guy can do it,” she thought.
And he did. It wasn’t easy, though. How do you keep all those characters straight? How do you avoid repetition or presenting someone who died several books back? How do you ensure a certain consitency of tone, pacing, style, characterization?
With lots of help, it turns out.
Maria Simons is the continuity expert. When Sanderson tried to write about one of the Aes Sidei women, Simons raised the red flag. That character was dead.
Alan Romanczuk is the tactics and strategy expert. When Sanderson wrote the 200-page chapter in “A Memory of Light” devoted to a big battle, Romanczuk provided the necessary support.
McDougal said the team made a deliberate decision not to imitate her husband’s prose style. Instead, Sanderson would apply his own writerly panache while striving to remain true to the characters and the spirit of the story.
“Crucial was that the characters that readers came to know should read like the same people and be believable, and I think that has been carried off very well,” McDougal said.
So what does a Robert Jordan fan look like?
“Years ago, my husband and I were in London meeting his British publisher, who wanted an idea about the audience” for marketing purposes, McDougal said. He was a bit dumbfounded.
“But your audience is perfectly ... spherical,” he said. “It’s as if you took an ice-cream scoop out of England.”
Readers included the young and old, male and female, rich and poor.
“And it’s certainly true here,” McDougal added.
But one anomaly did strike her years ago when she was processing the fan mail: Law enforcement and medical professionals were overrepresented among the readership. Her theory? They relate to one of Rigney’s major themes, the necessity to make life-or-death decisions when you don’t have enough information.
“The overriding question of the books is, what would it be like to be told you must save the world, but in the saving of the world you will go mad and kill everyone you love?”
To find out, read the books. Or visit Addlestone Library today.
Reach Adam Parker at 937-5902. Follow him at www.facebook.com/aparkerwriter.
Author Sanderson talks about ‘Wheel of Time,’ fans and plans
Q. A big priority has been to ensure the series maintains its general tone and tempo as you’ve written the concluding trilogy. Nevertheless, you are not James Rigney. How do you strike a balance between fulfilling your obligation to Rigney and the series on the one hand and applying your own talents on the other hand?A: It was a big concern for me to make certain the book wasn’t jarring for people to read because of the stylistic differences. At the same time, I worried that if I tried to imitate Mr. Jordan’s writing style exactly, I would stray into parody and it would turn out even worse.At the end of the day, I decided the best move was to try to adapt my style to the “Wheel of Time” while not worrying about specific words or phrases I might use that Mr. Jordan did not. My primary goal was to make sure I got the soul of the characters right, that they remained the same people to the reader, even if a new author was at the helm. I focused my attention on the way they thought, felt, talked and lived, and less time on whether Mr. Jordan would have used the word cobblestone or paving stone in a specific instance.Q: For the uninitiated, describe the nature of the fans, the huge following, the sundry “Wheel of Time” events that take place around the world? What has it been like for you to be subsumed by this alternative universe?A: The best way to describe what epic fantasy does is to imagine that it is a historical saga that happens to take place in a world that doesn’t exist. A good epic fantasy book takes you to a place that, during your reading, you are convinced is real. And the best writers strive to make it feel real in every way. This sense of immersion helps us fall in love with the cast of characters, because they are made more real by the reality of their surroundings.Robert Jordan was a master of these two most important traits of a fantasy writer: great characters and a sense of immersion in the world. Because of the strength of his story, the books have sold tens of millions of copies, but there are many books that sell very well. What is remarkable about the “Wheel of Time” is how dedicated the readership is. They wait years for books, they found forums and start conventions. They do charity work in the name of the books. These aren’t just novels you read and set aside. They become part of your life.Q: What are you working on now? Do you think you will ever undertake a project of this magnitude again?A: I’m working on the sequel to my book “The Way of Kings” from 2010, as well as two books for teens, both of which will come out this summer: “The Rithmatist” in May and “Steelheart” in September. I don’t know that any series done by me, or anyone else, will ever approach the same scope as the “Wheel of Time.” I hope to be able to do some remarkable things with my own writing, but the “Wheel of Time” is something unique.
“A Memory of Light”×
James Rigney, aka Robert Jordan×
Corrections are handwritten on an draft of “A Crown of Swords” that Rigney wrote.×
A reproduction of an ax that Rigney included in his books is part of memorabilia donated to the College of Charleston.×
A mannequin wears the clothes of a character from the books and can be seen at the College of Charleston’s Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library.×
A box containing books that were translated to foreign languages that Charleston author James Rigney (aka Robert Jordan) wrote.×