I’ve attended one author signing, George R.R. Martin’s signing for A Dance with Dragons, worked Book Expo America a couple of times and had the privilege of having Neil Gaiman sign a book for me (The Graveyard Book right after it won the Newberry and had the shiny logo placed on it), and met and had Peter V. Brett and Myke Cole sign things for me at NY Comic-Con.
|Rear: Me, Bob S, Brandon, Drew; |
Front: Phil, SaraJane, Harriet, Paul, and Ash
The Brandon Sanderson signing in the Philadelphia Library on February 19, 2013; however, was a bit different. I was one of the helpers, designated as a Memory Keeper whereby seven people in total helped to keep the line of fans (approximately 300-400) entertained; take photos of fans with Brandon and Harriet; and to help with the shuffling of books between Brandon and Harriet when the books were signed.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? The event began for me at about 5:15 when I met three of the other seven Memory Keepers (Paul, Phil, and SaraJane) at the Library and proceeded to a nice restaurant close to the Library where we chatted over dinner. Paul, Phil, and Sara-Jane were as enthused as I was. Phil brought several pieces of memorabilia (Wheel of Time playing cards most of which have really great art although the rendition of Rand makes him look like the lead singer of a 1980s hair-metal band, a poster of one of the cards) which we exchanged over dinner.
As is often the case when people like us get together, the discussion strayed a bit and of course it landed on A Song of Ice and Fire and the Game of Thrones show on HBO as well as other authors we enjoyed. As dinner was winding down, Drew, the fifth Memory Keeper arrived. Me being a NJ Devils fan, I of course made sure I wore my NJ Devils hoodie and Drew, a fan of the rival Philadelphia Flyers, had kind words for me (i.e. not kind), but he then joined in with our discussion of A Memory of Light and similar reading tastes (George R.R. Martin, Terry Brooks, Joe Abercrombie and I kept mentioning Peter V. Brett and Myke Cole as authors they should be reading) and hashed out who are favorite WoT characters were. Discussion focused quite a bit on The Last Battle
|Phil, Me, Paul & Sara Jane|
Dinner concluded and we headed back to the library and donned our red Memory Keepers t-shirts, met up with the remaining Memory Keepers (Bob S. and Ash) and set about our tasks. Initially, we just sort of walked the line of people waiting to go into the auditorium in the library's basement. Phil took photos and helped to herd people into the auditorium, which was eventually filled with some folks standing in the rear. Prior to Brandon and Harriet arriving, I had the opportunity to speak with Joshua Bilmes and Jessie Cammack of JABberwocky Literary Agency, who represents Brandon as well as great authors like Peter V. Brett, Jack Campbell, Myke Cole, David Louis Edelman, Jim Hines, Elizabeth Moon, and T.C. McCarthy among many others. Memory Keeper Paul and I discussed with them some of their clients a. We also discussed the Composite Superman of an author Peter Brent Weeks and the event in general.
Brandon and Harriet arrived after their dinner with the library staff. Brandon apologized for his voice because he’d be sucking on cough drops because, well, he’s been touring and his throat was sore from all the talking at this late stage of the tour. He recounted the story of his introduction to The Wheel of Time and fantasy in general. Brandon told the story (which I’m sure he’s recounted at many of these signings and many interviews) of how Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly (a terrific novel recently re-released by Open Road Media in eBook) was gently forced upon him by his teacher named Mrs. Reader and Brandon was hooked on fantasy. Realizing he liked big books, he found The Eye of the World at his local comic/book/Magic store and was happy to finally have a series that was ‘his’ to share with his friends who were always sharing ‘their’ series with him. When Brandon mentioned submitting his novels for publication, the one novel he submitted directly to Tor rather than through his agent was his first published novel Elantris. Brandon recounted how he didn’t let Joshua (his agent) do his job and negotiate because he wanted to be published by Tor, specifically because they published The Wheel of Time. In 2005 Elantris was published.
Harriet joined in the storytelling when it came to the point where Brandon was offered the gig to finish writing the series
|Two natural storytellers keeping the crowd entertained|
Harriet also told of how she realized Brandon would be "The Guy" (or as I've sometimes thought, the proverbial Rand Al'Thor tapped on the shoulder by the creator to take up the tale). She also relayed her conversation with Tom Doherty, after being handed a printout of Brandon’s eulogy for Robert Jordan. Doherty was concerned that maybe Harriet didn’t connect with Brandon’s writing because Harriet fell asleep after reading a small portion of Mistborn: The Final Empire. Harriet said because she didn’t want to (a) correct everything in the book due to her Editor’s mindset or (b) throw the book across the room in frustration, she felt comfortable with the story he was telling. She also told Doherty, “Besides, I’m not hiring him to write a Mistborn novel, I’m hiring him to write a Wheel of Time novel.”
Harriet mentioned that when she called information for Provo, Utah, she was given Brandon Sanderson’s phone number, but the person with whom she spoke on the phone had no idea about what she was talking. As it turned out, another Brandon Sanderson lives in Provo, UT but he’s a professional wrestler. When she called Brandon, she told him he was on the short list and held up one finger for the audience. Brandon, after thinking about it, said yes. Again, he didn’t let Joshua do any negotiating, Brandon simply said yes.
Another humorous anecdote involved the many, many, many files Robert Jordan kept regarding The Wheel of Time. Brandon was determined to get a word count of all the notes so he assembled all the word documents into one file. If I recall correctly, Brandon mentioned the page count was at 32,000 pages in his final document when he clicked the word count button. Word stopped at (IIRC) 5 million words and it wasn’t done counting. Word and his PC summarily crashed.
The Q&A session then began, much of which involved questions about The Wheel of Time and Brandon’s experience working in it. He also noted that the second Stormlight Archive book is tentatively set for the fall/November 2013, and he hopes he can make that date.
When a fan asked about the Outrigger novels and Prequels, Harriet answered “No.” After a moment of silence, she recounted that while Jim very much wanted the mainline Wheel of Time series to be finished, he didn’t want anybody making up things in his sandbox. Jordan’s extensive notes, dictated and written, were the framework for the final three novels while three sentences at most constitute the Outrigger and prequel novels.
The video Bob S. took of the event:
When asked why Brandon didn’t write the second Stormlight novel between Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light he indicated writing The Way of Kings simultaneously with The Wheel of Time nearly drove him crazy. (Personal note, it is amazing that he produced two quality novels under that type of pressure.)
Brandon also indicated that he felt selfish about asking if he could create a new character or work with a character which was mostly his own creation for the books. Harriet immediately shushed him for hinting that he was selfish for thinking such a thing, then Brandon continued to tell of the creation of Androl, which allowed him to play with the magic in ways he’d hoped (fannishly) to explore (i.e. Portals). Harriet also provided Brandon with a folder about how leathermaking works in Randland which was perfectly timed to provide Androl with more depth as a character.
The Encyclopedia came up in the discussion as potentially publishing next year. Harriet indicated that this “wouldn’t be just another version of the Big White Book.” It would be an encyclopedia in the truest sense of the word and would likely include some of Jordan’s vast stores of notes. Once the manuscript is finished, it will go off to Tor and illustrating will begin. Unlike the rushed (to be kind) illustrations in the Big White Book, more time will be allowed for the illustrations. No illustrator name was given, so it wasn’t clear if they had one under contract already, if they would have only one illustrator for the entire volume, or if multiple illustrators would be commissioned. Personally, I can see both sides, having one artist’s vision for things in Randland would provide a unified vision versus the chance to see a lot of artists take on things in Randland.
A few more specific questions were asked about things like Asha’man, one person noted that he’d been with his wife for “five books,” another mentioned that she hadn’t read The Wheel of Time and was more of a Brandon Sanderson fan but started The Eye of the World once A Memory of Light published and was really enjoying it.
Questions were asked about the difference between editing Jordan and editing Brandon. Harriet responded that it worked well and Brandon’s insightful answer was that it was not as problematic as one might think. Specifically, Harriet knows more about the characters and world of The Wheel of Time than anybody in the world, so Brandon felt that freed him up a bit in order to flow through the story more easily. After the Q&A/Discussion concluded, everybody headed upstairs to the main foyer of the library for the signing.
|A small portion of the line.|
The line wended its way down a hall, around bookcases and finally outside of the library and around the side of the building. I believe approximately 400 people were on line at one point, with many of them holding onto their minimum 3 items. Brandon would sign only the final three Wheel of Time novels (and none of the ones he didn’t co-author), any of his own novels, and whatever assorted Wheel of Time miscellany (such as the poster one of the Memory Keepers brought). Harriet would sign and Wheel of Time novel or memorabilia and Ender’s Game which she edited. I did not know she edited that novel.
My role at this point was to take pictures of people with Brandon and/or Harriet on fan’s own cameras/devices. Point of information, the camera on the iPhone is FAR superior to the camera on Android devices. Phil was handling overall photo events, and Bob was handling the video. SaraJane sat between Brandon and Harriet preparing the books for Harriet after Brandon’s signature. Drew, Paul, and Ash helped to entertain the crowd/line with Wheel of Time trivia which resulted in people walking away with messenger bags and/or iPhone cases emblazoned with the WOT logo, author’s names and A Memory of Light. Towards the end as the line became more bunched up at the signing table, Paul stepped up and helped to take some photos.
Although I was taking some pictures during the signing, I was able to point my ears into some of the conversations between Brandon and the fans.
First and foremost, Brandon is an awesome person.
- He first thanked people for coming, then asked if they had any questions for him. Never once did he rush anybody or shush them. For fans who mentioned they were writers themselves, he offered words of encouragement.
- One great bit of information I overheard was the next Mistborn novel would be published in 2014. Brandon also mentioned (and I tried to filter this through all the other discussions circulating) that Hoid would be the main character (I think) of the trilogy or that Hoid would feature as the main character in another trilogy.
- I also overheard Brandon say his least favorite Wheel of Time character was Cadsuane, I don’t think he is alone in that. Actually, for I fact I know he isn’t alone because she was probably my least favorite character as well.
- One Russian fan brought a Russian edition of Mistborn: The Final Empire to be signed.
- Another Bulgarian fan said the Bulgarian translations, which are recent, were done very well.
I spoke to Harriet about the covers in the series, remarking how she indicated when she saw Whelan’s cover for A Memory of Light she said “that is the Rand I have waited to see for twenty years.” Harriet then said how Whelan’s art, though his own style, she felt, was able to mesh with the sensibilities Sweet had always brought to his covers, in particular the landscapes. I asked her what her favorites of the covers were she immediately said The Eye of the World she thought another moment and said she liked The Shadow Rising.
After all the other folks had their books signed it was down to the library staff, Brandon, Harriet, Brandon’s agent Joshua and the seven Memory Keepers. Brandon graciously signed what we brought including my paperback copy of The Way of Kings which quotes my SFFWorld review and calls out my name (!!!).
|Still chuffed to see my name in print like that! First time I'm called out by name.|
I also had my hardcover copies of Mistborn: The Hero of Ages, A Memory of Light, and Towers of Midnight signed as well as The Alloy of Law signed for one of my wife’s colleagues and paperbacks of Mistborn: The Well of Ascension and Mistborn: The Hero of Ages signed for a friend who was unable to attend.
|My SFFWorld review of The Well of Ascencion is on the back flap|
So, a long night, but one of the best nights I’ve had as a fan and a reader. It was a blast meeting and chatting with Harriet and Brandon, as well as his agent Joshua and great to get to know some other Wheel of Time fans in real life. A big thanks to the folks at Tor books, Brandon, Robert Jordan, Harriet McDougal and the folks at Dragonmount for making this night possible