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The last battle is coming

The end is nigh. It’s been 20 years since the publication of “The Eye of the World,” the first best-selling entry in the Wheel of Time epic fantasy series.

The end is nigh. It’s been 20 years since the publication of “The Eye of the World,” the first best-selling entry in the Wheel of Time epic fantasy series. Now, 13 novels and two authors later — Brandon Sanderson was selected to finish it up after series creator Robert Jordan died in 2007 — it’s clear by the book’s rapid pacing and exciting action sequences that the last battle is finally at hand.

“It’s finally sinking into people that it really is the end,” Sanderson told Metro. “Towers of Midnight,” the penultimate entry, hits shelves today. The final book is expected in 2011.

“The last book is coming,” he says. “If people have been holding off on reading the Wheel of Time until it was finished, or if they gave up on Wheel of Time years ago because they weren’t sure when it was ever going to be complete — I would say to people, now is the time to pick it up.”

Q&A: Brandon Sanderson

How much of this content was handed to you by WOT creator Robert Jordan?

Robert Jordan had around 3 million unpublished words, of notes, about
the world and the books – about the equivalent of 10-novels worth in WOT

[Additionally, he left] 200 typed pages. So 200 pages plus 3 million
words, all in various states.

Some of the things that
he wrote, he actually dictated, on his deathbed; which read more like
screenplays: He gets the dialogue in, and he mentions what happens, but he
left it to be described by someone else. He'll have a sentence that needs to be 2
or 3 paragraphs, in some case; in other places its just as is, put it in.
He did some complete writing, of just complete scenes that I can just take
and put in; some half a scene; some a paragraph and he says, ‘in this scene
this happens, this thing gets discovered, and this resolution occurs,’ and
that's 10-15 pages worth I have to write. In other places there’s just a hole
in a character's narrative; where we know where they were, and where they're going, and what their main conflicts are, and its left up to me. He
touched on all the really important points, and then left some holes in other things. I give the kind of fake and half answer when people ask me this, that it¹s 100 percent him, and 100 percent me. But I really honestly
believe that. I'm putting everything I've got into this, but I'm also trying, as hard as I can to make this his book, and not mine. I want this to be a
WOT book, not a Brandon Sanderson book.

Did you change anything from what he left?

You have to be willing to change things and let the story evolve as your write it; in some cases his note said ‘I was thinking of doing this’
..., but then I get to that point and I say, you know what, that isn't appropriate anymore, it doesn't work for the story as it has gone, so
how can I best fulfill this same sort of feel that he wanted without
changing it?

Basically, if its a
scene that he wrote, I don¹t change anything. I may change grammar, I may do
line editing, but usually I just leave that to Harriet -- honestly, his wife
was his editor for many years, she was his editor before they got married,
so she really knows what she's doing.

[But] there always are changes. When you write an outline, you never
follow it exactly. I was given full creative control as a writer. Of course, if there's something Harriet doesn't like, then I have to either really
justify myself, or I have to change it. But that's the case with every editorial relationship: When you have an editor, you always have you convince your editor that it's the right thing to do.

What has been the most difficult aspect of picking up this project from Jordan?

I'd say, keeping track of all the side characters, which is an enormous challenge as a reader -- and as a writer it¹s even a bigger challenge.
There are something like 2,000 named characters in the WOT, and I have to keep track of all of them.

Most of those people
have had lines, have appeared in multiple scenes; so keeping that all
straight and making sure I'm not screwing up, is a big challenge. Also: making
sure that the characters’ voices are all right. Some of the characters just
feel completely natural to me -- I've been reading them since i was 14, they were like my high school buddies growing up, I KNOW them. Other
characters though are really foreign to me. The most difficult thing that I really

needed to get right was to make sure that the characters sound like themselves.

Matrim Cauthon seems to have into his own.

In the previous book, Mat was one of those characters that people felt
the voice was a few degrees off. In fact, it was the only major character
that the feedback I consistently got was, Mat might be a little bit off. And
so I spent an extra large amount of time in this book making sure that Mat
was right; partially because most of the material that Robert Jordan left
for Matt was in this book. The Mat from the previous book was not actual
Robert Jordan writing; things that in parts that I was instructed to do, but it
was my line by line writing. In this book, you have actual have line by line writing, so if I didn¹t get Mat's voice right, it would be jarring when
you go between those two. And so I really worked hard to make sure that Matt felt like himself.

How do you juggle these two projects?

Generally I'm only capable of doing actual writing on 1 project at a
time; and if I switch gears from one to another I completely switch gears. I'm able to revise on multiple books at once, and that's because there's a different for me between laying down the story and the voices the first time, and then perfecting them. I wrote Way of Kings, a big epic I've
been wanting to write for years and years and never thought I could get away
with until now, I wrote that mostly last year, starting at about April and finishing late in the year; November-Decemberish. that's when a big
chunk ofn that writing was going on. While I was doing that I was revising some
things for Towers of Midnight, some things I had written before. Come Jan., I started writing only on Towers of Midnight – but I would revise Way of Kings.

How did you get this gig?

I started reading the Wheel of Time when I was 14; I had The Eye of the World in paperback (first book in the series) and I've been reading them ever since. At various points in my life it's been my favorite fantasy series ever. I would reread the series every time a new book would come

I was very well steeped in WOT, and I loved it. But I was just a fan. I became a writer in my own right partially because of my love of the
genre and Wheel of Time, and when he passed away in 2007, I was kind of dumbfounded, like a lot of us were. He was such a monument in the field,
and he was posting on his blog, very optimistic, and then he was just gone,
and it shocked a lot of us. I didn¹t apply to be the writer that would
finish the series; I did immediately have a panicked worry, like I think a lot
of the fans did, of what's going to happen to the ending. My immediate reaction, I didn't feel should be, well let's go offer to do it.

We had
just lost someone great, and it didn¹t feel right to me, sending a resume.
The pitch felt crass to me, and so I didn't, I didn't even ask. And instead I posted a eulogy for Robert Jordan on my website, talking about how much
he had inspired me; I was one of many who were posting these things,
because the community, a lot of us grew up reading Robert Jordan. Well Harriet, Jordan¹s wife, saw that eulogy, a friend of hers printed it off, they
were collecting nice things people had said about Jordan on the Internet,
trying to help her, and gave it to her the day of his funeral actually; and she read it, and unbeknownst to me, called up the publisher at TOR.

And he
said hey this is one of our guys. He sent her “Mistborn,” my trilogy, the
first book, and she called me, and said hey do you want to do this? I just got
a voicemail one day, it was Robert Jordan's widow calling me, just out of
the blue; one of the most surreal moments of my life was answering my
voicemail and finding that I had a phone call from Robert Jordan's widow.

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