So, if it is one thing that is known about Maria Simons, assistant to Robert Jordan, it is that she could bluff an Aes Sedai a county over with her poker face, and she doesn’t even have to sing a song about it. Yet, as part of the my grand scheme to secure interviews with the members of Team Jordan, I went up against the grand master of serene, noncommittal visages and dared ask my questions.
RF: When did you first meet James Rigney?
MS: He was invited to my wedding, but I don’t think he was there; Harriet was. I first met him in 1994, when my father-in-law died and Harriet and Jim hosted a reception for the family after the funeral. I was really proud because I didn’t go all fangirl on him, but I did talk to him and tell him how much I enjoyed the books.
RF: And when did you get involved with The Wheel of Time?
MS: In 1996, my husband ran into Harriet on the street and said “Do you know anybody who needs an editor?” because I had worked as an editor before. She said “No, but we could use help with fan-mail and filing.” So we ran into them at a cocktail party later that week, Jim and I sized each other up, and I started working twelve hours a week in January 1996.
RF: Any particular favorite scene in the books?
MS: My favorite chapter is chapter five of Lord of Chaos called “A Different Dance.” It’s a chapter that showcases Mat; Mat is magnificent. He is in there trying to pick up Betse Silvin, and she’s running circles around him. Talmanes is humming “A Frog on the Ice,” Mat and Betse dance, and he remembers dancing with a Sea Folk woman. Then he goes out and takes down a Hunter for the Horn with a low blow and meets Olver. It is just a beautiful Mat showcase, and I think that is when I just totally fell in love with the character.
RF: What was it like working with Jim and doing the filing for him?
MS: It was great to work for Jim. We started off just doing fan-mail and filing. He was finishing up A Crown of Swords, and he wouldn’t let me help copyedit because he didn’t want to spoil me. But, as time went on, I convinced him to let me organize his notes: that is when I found out the truth about Verin. And when The Path of Daggers came along, he let me work on it.
And he was great. He’d come in singing in the morning, he would say thank you, and he bought me cookies. If I made a mistake on anything, he didn’t fuss and yell, he just said “Fix it.” He was just fabulous to work for, and Harriet is too.
RF: What is it like working with Brandon?
MS: Working with Brandon is wonderful. Brandon is amazing. He works so hard. He doesn’t have this big ego trip; he never says, “Hey, I’m the writer. You can’t tell me that this character would never say that.” He listens and keeps insisting that this isn’t his book, it’s Jim’s, and he means it. I mean, that’s how he really feels. He’s working to put out the books that Jim would approve of. And he is succeeding.
RF: We just passed the twentieth anniversary of The Eye of the World, and I know you came in around mid-way—
MS: I started reading them in ’91.
RF: Ah, sorry. A fan from the get-go. But, looking back, do have any thoughts on where the story has come?
MS: It is hard to believe it has been twenty years. It was funny to see how Jim thought he was writing six books at the beginning, and it kept growing and growing. He really wanted to wrap it up, and it is so sad that he couldn’t. But he worked really hard to ensure that we could get it finished for him.
RF: OK, so you have known the secrets and have been poker-facing us all for a very long time. Is there anything that you felt was a surprise for the fans to key in on, such as the Asmodean mystery, or perhaps something you thought they should have but didn’t?
MS: The fans are really amazing. They seem to pounce on pretty much everything, even when there’s nothing to pounce on. I have pretty much never been disappointed by the fans’ reaction to anything, although I never really understood why so many people were obsessed with who killed Asmodean. But the Verin discussion – Very Old Verin, the Purple Ajah, and all that – was just so much fun, and I’m so glad I can talk about my favorite sneaky Brown now. Verin rocks!
RF: I have a feeling I’m about to hear four letters. Do you have any hint you can even give us to the “big thing” Brandon says we all missed in books four through six?
MS (With her eyelid fluttering and twitching a little): No.
RF: Well, at least it was only two letters and not four. OK, the last question: without using four letters, who killed Asmodean?
MS: If you look at the back of my car, you can see “I killed Asmodean!”
RF: There we have it. It wasn’t Graendal, but Maria Simons the entire time.
Richard Fife is a blogger, writer, and one heck of a lucky person to get this interview. More of his rambling and some of his short stories can be found at http://RichardFife.com.