Hi, kids! It’s Leigh Butler, again. God, like when will she shut up, right?
Well, not just yet, because last week, in honor of the official end of the Wheel of Time Reread, the Powers That Be on Tor.com put up a lovely little Q&A post in which people were invited to ask me questions about the Reread, the Wheel of Time, and whatever. And lo, people did ask questions, and lo, I am now here to answer them!
And if you’ve never heard of me before and don’t know what the fuss is about, the Index for the Wheel of Time Reread is here. Or if you’d rather not be chained to your desktop, the Wheel of Time Reread is also available as e-books, from your preferred e-book retailer!
Shameless plug having thus been accomplished, click on for your answers!
[Warning: Some of my answers to the questions asked contain huge spoilers for the Wheel of Time series. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.]
Do you read fan fictions on the Wheel of Time? Would you ever write a fan fiction on the Wheel of Time?
Interestingly, though I do read fanfiction, I have never really sought out fanfiction based on the Wheel of Time specifically, nor do I have any real impulse to write fanfic about it.
People read (and write) fanfiction for any number of reasons, but I think one strong reason people are motivated to do so is because they feel that for whatever reason, the canon material has not provided them with sufficient material to satisfy their interest in the characters or the world. They want to play in the sandbox more, in other words, and continue or expand (or correct) the stories within it. Which I think is great (and a fascinating phenomenon in general), but for me personally, the canon of WOT is already so vast and exhaustively explored a universe that I don’t feel a need to seek out any expansion beyond what the source material already provides.
There is also the fact that, if you include my work on the WOTFAQ, I have been writing about and examining the world of WOT, at great length, for well over a decade at this point. Which I have loved and enjoyed doing, but there is such a thing as a saturation point. So fanfic beyond the scope of what I have already been doing would probably be a little much.
Did you ever think this would be a 5 plus year effort?
At the beginning? Not even remotely. That’s why the first third of the Reread is so compact compared to the rest; when I originally started it, we all thought that there was only going to be one more book coming out, so I was trying to fit the entire Reread in to finish before the projected release date, about nine months after I began. Which is utterly hilarious in retrospect, but there you are.
How many desks did you go through for the re-read (when you banged your head on the desk for the character’s actions/inactions)?
Heh. Most of my *headdesks* in the course of the Reread were strictly metaphorical. Ironically, for most of the first part of the Reread I didn’t even have a desk; I wrote a lot of the first books’ posts sitting in a recliner in the living room with my laptop in my lap, because the wifi in my apartment was too weak to reach to my bedroom in the back of the apartment!
It is well known that you HATED the Seanchan slavery issue (any time it came up in the reread I swear I could see the vein in the center of your forehead pulsing violently!). Why do you think this thread was never really resolved by Team Jordan?
I think it just fell beyond the scope of the story, really. Slavery is a messy, terrible, ugly problem that continues to plague the world today, and it’s not something that’s going to be eradicated in a snap, even fictionally—and this is especially true in a culture where it is still legal. It might be nice to think that you can just redesign the entire infrastructure of a society overnight and everything will be hunky-dory, but that just ain’t the way it is. So, yes, the institutionalized slavery system of the Seanchan infuriated me, but it didn’t particularly surprise me that it wasn’t “solved” within the course of the series proper.
The gender politics aside *headdesk*, what was the most frustrating or difficult aspect of the reread?
Honestly, the most difficult part of the Reread was nearly always not my commentary, but the summaries of the chapters. It was often screamingly frustrating to try to condense down all the events and character interactions and dialogue and internal monologues and hundred tiny nuances down to something that could even remotely be considered a “summary” and yet still retain the sense of what happened in the chapter. And this was a problem that only got worse as the series progressed and grew ever more complex; Jordan was a writer who definitely believed in having every sentence pack as much information into it as humanly possible. I think a lot of people would be shocked at how hard I worked on getting the chapter summaries into shape every week, especially considering I get the sense that a lot of people just skimmed them in order to get to the commentary. Kind of ironic, I guess.
When you were living in New York you got a really good deal on a leather jacket. If you were living in New York at the time you were working on the Re-Read would this be a related question you can answer? I heard it is a really good story. :)
Oh my God, you remembered that remark? Did I say that in the Reread at some point? That is HILARIOUS. Basically, I got this fabulous brand-new leather jacket that I think was originally like $300, but was marked down to $40 or something ridiculous like that, because there was an ink stain on it. The awesome part is that the ink stain was on the inside lining of one of the pockets, where no one would ever see it. I… don’t know if that actually is a good story, but it tickled the hell out of me, so, uh, yeah.
Which plot twist / development (in the entire series) most shocked or surprised you?
Off the top of my head, I would definitely say it was the “death” of Moiraine after her showdown with Lanfear in TFOH. That was jaw-dropping stuff. Though Verin’s revelation in TGS definitely runs a close second.
What on earth do you suggest I read now that WoT is complete?! I’ve tried GRRM, Terry Brooks, Goodkind, Tad Williams, Abercrombie, but didn’t really get on with any of them. Anything else you can suggest, aside from Brandon Sanderson (all of whose I’ve already devoured)?
I would recommend you try the Dragaera series by Steven Brust, which has long been one of my favorite ongoing fantasy series. The series starts here. I also deeply love the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold, which strictly speaking is sci-fi instead of fantasy, but it doesn’t matter because it is awesome. You’d start that series here. Neither of these series are exactly epic fantasy in the tradition of WOT, but I adore them because they hooked me with wonderful characters, excellent writing, and fascinating worldbuilding, so anyone who loved WOT ought to at least appreciate these as well.
If you want something more in the traditional “epic fantasy” vein, I really enjoyed Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. (And his more famous urban fantasy series The Dresden Files is a ton of tongue-in-cheek fun as well.)
Which parts of the series was the most difficult to write about? And the easiest? And most fun?
I would definitely say that the most difficult post to write in the entire Reread was the one in ACOS about Tylin’s “seduction” of Mat, and my conviction that her actions constituted rape. I agonized over that post, no lie.
As for “the easiest” or “the most fun”… well, just about all of it was fun, on one level or another, because it was me getting to share how I felt about a thing and I love that, always, but at the same time I really don’t feel that any of it was easy, for precisely the same reason. Does that make sense?
How do you feel to know that the Wheel of Time and the re-read have fans not just in the US but all over the world?
Well, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that the Wheel of Time series is world-famous, but the idea that the Reread also has an international following is just deeply awesome and humbling. The Internet is often a wonderful place, and that is why. So cool.
Could we see this series get the Game of Thrones treatment and see this as a series on HBO/Showtime?
They’re definitely trying to do that; have been for years and years, from what I understand. Whether such a thing would ever do justice to WOT is an entirely different question. I’ve always been kind of torn on the question myself; on the one hand I would love to see a visual adaptation of WOT, but on the other it presents challenges that even A Game of Thrones never did, and I am skeptical of either a TV series or a movie series being able to handle those challenges without descending into rank cheesiness. But hey, I guess it’s always possible.
Who would you cast as the Main people?
Hahaha, the eternal fandom question! I personally think the only way to go would be to cast unknowns for the main cast, especially for the Superboys and Supergirls, and put stellar character actors for the supporting cast. Worked for Harry Potter, anyway.
Will the encyclopedia in the works answer any of the unresolved Qs of the Story arcs?
You got me. I have no involvement whatsoever with the Encyclopedia.
What Ajah would you want to join?
I think I answered this at some point in the Reread, that I would be Green, but on reflection I think I would probably change that answer to Blue, because there are definitely some causes I want to fight for. I guess that makes me the opposite of Leane Sedai. Heh.
At one point during your read of the series did you know you were going to finish it no matter what?
I don’t think it ever crossed my mind to not finish it, honestly. I’d signed on for a thing, and I was going to honor that. Even if it ended up being not at all what I’d originally signed on for.
Did you have tears when Lan sheathed the sword in the end?
Having read all the dark disappointments of GRRM’s series, are you more or less appreciative that even in the end we lost so very few main WoT people?
Well, I haven’t read all the “dark disappointments” of ASOIAF yet (heh). But while I see what Martin is driving at (and agree with him to some extent), at the same time I sort of appreciate that WOT gave me the dramatic tension and scope that it did without killing off beloved characters right and left. But in this respect especially, WOT and ASOIAF are very different series, and the comparison is therefore a little facile, in my opinion.
Why do you think it never occurred to Demandred that Rand really wasn’t on the battlefield because he was busy at Shayol Ghul (duh, Demmy, ya dummy)?
I think you kind of answered your own question there, dear. Obsession is noted for its blind spots.
What is your greatest lesson/insight from reading all the books and posting them online?
That writing is hard.
Will you ever cover the big white book?
[Meaning this.] Doubtful, unless anyone wants to hear me rant at dire length about the awfulness of its art.
What have you gained from the re-read?
Many things, but mostly new friends, whom I otherwise would never have gotten to meet. Which is pretty darn awesome.
Are there any parts of the books you look at differently now, after the re-read, analysis and commentary?
Hm. I think I’m going to save answering this question for the reread of the Reread.
Were there any comments that made you go “Woah…” and look at something in a new way/perspective?
Many times. One of the best things about the Reread was the opportunity the commenters had to debate and expand upon what I had said in the original post, and I can’t even say the number of times someone in the comments came up with even more cogent and insightful things to say than I did. To me, that was often the point of the entire exercise.
OK, this is waaaay off in left field. As a daughter of the Big Easy, have you ever met Anne Rice? Do you enjoy her work?
Heh. I have met Anne Rice, in fact, several times, mainly because I was friends with her son Christopher Rice (who is now an accomplished author in his own right). She is a very cool lady. And back in the day I loved a great many of her books. My especial favorite of her work is The Witching Hour, because I feel that more than anything else, the novel was a wonderful love letter to New Orleans, and the sense of the city’s history and essence it evoked was amazing. It was the epitome of the modern-day Gothic ghost story, if you ask me.
Who would you rather have for a friend – Elayne or Egwene?
Egwene, no question. I love Elayne in the books, but me and Egwene would have been BFFs. Ooh Ooh Girls Unite!
I have a lot of friends who are big fantasy readers, but say they’re turned off by the gender politics of WoT. I like how you’ve handled and discussed Jordan’s sometimes… interesting handling of the differences between the genders in his world. Can you talk about that directly, and maybe offer some insight into how I can present the topic in a way that might let me share this wonderful series with them?
If it’s the idea of reading a so-called “issues” book that makes them run screaming (which is a common reaction in people who are looking for lighter fare or reading strictly for pleasure), then I would simply reassure them that that’s not what WOT is, at all. The commentary is there, certainly (and I’ve spent a lot of time examining and/or criticizing it), but it’s perfectly possible to simply read WOT as a fun story without the meta commentary, and enjoy the way it grants diversity and depth to all its characters, regardless of gender.
If it’s because they are not averse to reading about gender politics but disagree with the way WOT handles that particular issue, I would ask, how can they be sure they disagree with it if they haven’t actually read it? If nothing else, it makes great fodder for friendly debate.
If it’s because “I don’t read about feminism,” don’t bother.
How many hours/days will it probably take to read all fifteen books in the series?
That entirely depends on fast a reader you are, my dear. And how much spare time you have. But I would say, on average, that you’d probably better set aside a good chunk of time for it. I got through the first seven books in less than two weeks, originally, but I am a demon speedreader and I was also a college student at the time (i.e. had both the focus and the dilettante-ism to devote to such a pursuit).
What piece of foreshadowing was most obvious in hindsight, but surprising in execution in the initial read through?
The revelation about Mat’s ashanderei in TOM certainly knocked me for a loop.
Who was the character you hated the most?
Hmm. She may not be the character I hated most overall, but the one who immediately leaped to mind upon reading this question was Renna, the sul’dam who collared and “trained” Egwene in The Great Hunt. Not so much for her herself, but what she represented. As you may have heard, I am really not so much a fan of the slavery thing, and those chapters in TGH still make my blood pressure go up when I think about them.
Did you have any pre-conceptions concerning this project before you started, as this is a re-read, so it was your second journey with the characters?
HAHAHA. Second journey? Try “sixth” or “seventh,” my friend. At least. Don’t forget, I worked on the WOTFAQ before ever embarking on the Reread, so WOT (at least the first half of it) was very well-traveled territory for me by the time I started this blog. So, any pre-conceptions I had were probably more in the nature (and timing) of the Reread itself than anything to do with the series itself.
Would you do anything different, or do you just let it flow as you are experiencing the feelings. Or perhaps better yet; what was your work flow to bring this to the fans?
“Flow” is a very good word to use, I think. Especially in the later books, where I had much less previous memory to work from, I was mostly just expressing whatever I was feeling at the time about whatever I had just read; it was very organic in that sense, I think.
As for the question of whether I would have done anything differently… I maybe would have liked to have had a more cogent picture of things later on, because I knew there were a lot of things I was forgetting in the throes of it all, so to speak, but given the time constraints that really just wasn’t possible. So all things considered I’m pretty satisfied with how it turned out.
Purely for curiosities sake but do you know what the word count of the entire Reread was?
No idea. I’m kind of curious about that myself, honestly. Maybe one of these days The Powers That Be at Tor.com will come up with a way to count it up for me, but I imagine that would be kind of a herculean task, so I ain’t gonna press for it.
When you read the Wheel of Time did stuff like the gender politics thing jump out at you or do you keep an eye out for the author making real world commentary?
Well, I definitely have a much sharper eye for that kind of thing now than I did when I first read WOT. It’s sort of like pattern recognition: you might not necessarily notice it until it’s been pointed out to you, but after that it becomes difficult or impossible to not see it. But the first time I read it, I think the only real thought I had on the matter was a pleased surprise that there were so many female characters who didn’t remind me of wallpaper. I didn’t learn how to articulate what was going on there until later.
Is there another book or series of books that has impacted you in a similar way as the WOT and what was it that resonated so strongly with you?
Mmm. I’m answering this separately from the “book recommendations” question above because this is kind of a different thing. Because if you want to know what are the books that most strongly influenced me as a person and as a writer my answers are actually totally different.
As a person, I don’t think any book has affected me more strongly than these two: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Each of these novels had an enormous effect on shaping my view of the world. The former I consider one of the greatest American novels ever written, and the latter was directly responsible for my first forays into learning about feminism and gender politics (and my budding love for the dystopian genre). I cannot recommend either novel highly enough to do them justice; I consider them absolute required reading for everyone. If you haven’t yet read either one of these novels you need to fix that immediately.
As far as influence on me as a writer, I think my single strongest influence was actually Douglas Adams. I first stumbled upon his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series when I was probably too young to actually be reading it, and was stunned and enthralled with the revelation that language and writing could be used not just to merely convey information, but that it could be played with as well; that vocabulary and word choice and sentence structure in itself could be used to make people laugh and react. Everyone is familiar with many of his famous quotes, but my favorite will always be this one:
“Well, I mean, yes idealism, yes the dignity of pure research, yes the pursuit of truth in all its forms, but there comes a point I’m afraid where you begin to suspect that if there’s any real truth, it’s that the entire multidimensional infinity of the Universe is almost certainly being run by a bunch of maniacs.”
Not only does that totally make sense to me philosophically, but as a sentence structure in itself it is a masterwork of a run-on sentence, and even ten-year-old me knew it. And the rest is history.
And if you want my favorite novel of all time, it is Watership Down, by Richard Adams. If you’ve read it, you know why, and if you haven’t read it, READ IT. It is just the greatest.
What is your favorite book in the series? Favorite individual chapter?
I think overall my favorite book in the series is probably The Shadow Rising, because that novel was just stuffed chock-full of pure awesome, but my favorite individual chapter will always be Mat and Birgitte’s confrontation in A Crown of Swords, where she learns that he speaks the Old Tongue, and then they become BFFs. That chapter still fills me with squee every time I think about it.
Would you consider doing a re-read of some of L.E. Modesitt Jr’s work?
Er, honestly I tried reading the Recluce series back in the day and kind of bounced off it, hard. Maybe I would have a different reaction now, but at the moment the memory of my first reaction to it makes me disinclined to try it again. Sorry.
What book in the series gave you the most satisfying sense of handrubbing glee upon finishing?
Probably The Fires of Heaven. Just because everyone was so badass in that book, but especially Nynaeve, who was my absolute favorite character at that point.
What on earth was the point of Rand having three loves?
Mostly as a shoutout to Arthurian legend, I think.
So which ones of the minor characters did you really like and really hate? Were there any you felt like were a bit like you?
Well, for hatred I already mentioned Renna, above, and Masema definitely gave me many stabby feelings. (As did Gawyn, but I think he is not a “minor” enough character to qualify.) For liking, I always had an odd soft spot for Gaul and his ridiculous behind-the-scenes Aiel soap opera. And Verin, of course, was all kinds of awesome.
As for any that are like me… well, this just leapt to mind, but as an older sister, I have a certain amount of sympathy for Birgitte trying to herd the clowder of cats that was Elayne Trakand. (Or, as my sisters would put it, sometimes I am Bossy.)
I’m kind of curious if you still keep in touch with some of the regulars from rasfwrj?
A good number of the regulars from rasfwr-j are, in fact, some of my closest friends today. And, I hope, always will be.
How much time do you typically spend on writing one of the reread posts?
That totally depends on the post, really. But I probably spend longer on them than you might think I do.
If some random person who knew nothing about the series asked you about it, what would you say? How do you encapsulate it?
I think I rather did, here.
What are the best and worst aspects of the series, in your judgment?
I don’t know that there’s really a simple answer to that, for me. For instance, the complexity and depth of the worldbuilding means WOT had… er, complexity and depth, but it also meant that sometimes the story got bogged down and tangled up in its own convolutions. So there are both good and bad aspects to a lot of things about the series.
During the Rereread, will you provide personal anecdotes about what certain passages conjure up when you read them (beyond just the content of the story itself)? Will you read the respective post and its comments and comment on that?
Where will we find the new Rereread posts?
Right here on Tor.com, of course. I’m sure there will be an announcement post before we start it up, and you can always follow me on the site if you want to make sure you don’t miss it.
Do you have any traditions for when you finish one of your favourite books (including a WoT book)?
Reading WOT for me is a little bit different than reading other books, considering it’s also my job. My rituals for WOT, therefore, generally involved note-taking. Which is probably not what most people do.
If [a movie or TV series of WOT] were actually happening and your help were requested, would you lend your services?
I probably would. I don’t think that’s very likely, though; it’s been a long time since I worked in Hollywood.
It seems to me that you inspired the reread blog series and style on Tor; is it true?
No, considering I based my format on Kate Nepveu’s Reread of LOTR. If any blog series can be said to be the progenitor of the reread blog series on Tor.com, it’s that one.
Why does WoT as series deserve to win a Hugo award?
See my post here.
What is your favorite made of awesome moment in the series?
I don’t think I have just one. But as a general rule, anywhere in the Reread where I stuck a big sparkly “YAY” in the commentary after it happened is probably one of them.
What was your biggest disappointment to the ending?
Well, I pretty much covered that in the last AMOL post, but basically it was my disappointment that we never got to see Rand, Mat, and Perrin all in one room together before the end.
[What was the] biggest surprise in the series… i.e. what crazy theory that you thought would never be true, turned out to be true?
I was pretty surprised that Verin actually turned out to be Black Ajah. Though honestly that wasn’t nearly the craziest theory floating around out there about her.
What is the single biggest headdesk-inducing moment in the series?
Still the spanking thing, dude.
Can you pick a familiar name for the new re-read out of the options discussed on the final post thread or some other worthy alternative?
I’ll certainly consider them, but no promises!
And that looks like all for now, my darlings! Thank you so much for taking the time to ask me questions, and to read the Reread, and to generally be the lovely and effervescent folk I know you are. Watch this space for the Reread of the Reread, coming soon to an Internet near you!
Leigh Butler is a writer, blogger, and opinionator for Tor.com, where she conducted The Wheel of Time Reread and still conducts A Read of Ice and Fire. She’s very conducive. She currently lives in New Orleans.