The final installment in a fantasy book series that has spanned more than two decades is about to hit bookstores.
The 14th and final book of the Wheel of Time series "A Memory of Light," (Tor, $34.99) by the late Robert Jordan and local Utah author Brandon Sanderson will be released Jan. 8. The final book marks the passing of a much-loved epic fantasy story and the end of a period when a single book could span 2 or more inches thick on bookstore shelves.
The Wheel of Time series was created by James Oliver Rigney Jr. under the pen name Robert Jordan in 1984. The first book was published in 1990. Jordan's series tells the story of a fantasy world in which the Dark One, the embodiment of pure evil, is breaking free of his prison. One man learns he is the world's messiah reincarnated and destined to save the world from the Dark One. But he also learns he could destroy the world in the process.
Audio excerpt from "A Memory of Light"
The series is the story of an entire world's struggle to deal with evil, change and hope. Jordan's series quickly mastered the epic fantasy genre as book after book was published. Books 8 through 13 reached No. 1 on The New York Times Best Seller List.
When Jordan died while writing the 12th and final book of the series in 2007, Harriet McDougal, Jordan's widow, selected Sanderson to finish the series for Jordan posthumously. Sanderson had published "Elantris" and the first two books of his Mistborn series through the same publisher as Jordan, Tor Books. The announcement was made in December 2007 and soon after Sanderson began working on the series.
He quickly discovered that the last book couldn't possibly tie up all the loose ends of the story in the length of one book, so he split the final book into three installments, the last of which is being released on Jan. 8.
While working on the Wheel of Time, Sanderson decided to adapt his style to the series — but not copy Jordan's style. "As a writer, you learn different styles just like a painter learns to paint in different styles, and the Wheel of Time uses a more descriptive style than I use on my own, and I thought it would be more appropriate to try and do that," said Sanderson.
When selected to finish Jordan's series, Sanderson says he was given full creative power to do whatever he felt he needed to make the story work. Even though he could have altered it to make it more his own, Sanderson wanted to try to do it as Jordan's story.
"My goal wasn't to come into this and in any way 'fix' the Wheel of Time or the outline. I wanted to do it the way that he (Jordan) wanted it done," said Sanderson.
According to Sanderson, writing someone else's novel was far more difficult than writing his own.
"I would spend about twice as much time on a given scene that I wrote for a Wheel of Time book than I spend on my own because there's so much continuity to be aware of." Although Sanderson put a lot of his own projects on hold while writing the Wheel of Time books, he says he'll miss working on them.
The Wheel of Time books have been with him almost his whole life, Sanderson said.
"I picked up the first book in 1990 — I was 14 years old — and I have been reading the Wheel of Time books ever since. It's been 23 years that I've had the Wheel of Time books. It's been there basically through my whole life and this is the end and all good things do have an ending, and the ending comes. A piece of art isn't right until it's finished and so it's a good thing, but it's also a really sad thing."
Sanderson has been an industrious worker these past five years. In addition to finishing the three final books of the Wheel of Time series, he published four middle grade fantasy books, four novels, three novellas and a young adult novel set to come out in May. All the while he engaged in a weekly broadcast, "Writing Excuses," participated in several writing conferences, taught a creative writing class at Brigham Young University one semester per year and had a family.
Sanderson attributes his ability to accomplish so much to the strong pioneer work ethic his parents taught him.
"It was kind of baffling to (my parents) that I took all of this work ethic they taught me and I turned it into a job I spend daydreaming, but it really does work on the same principle. You've got to practice," said Sanderson.
With an emphasis on helping others who want to become authors, Sanderson has devoted a significant amount of time to the writing community. His award-winning weekly podcast, "Writing Excuses," is a 15-minute pick-me-up about one writing topic per episode, designed to help amateur writers. A set of Youtube videos of his BYU lectures are also available online at writeaboutdragons.com.
While attending BYU as an undergraduate student, Sanderson took a course taught by fantasy novelist Dave Wolverton, a class which he feels was invaluable to his writing education and one of the reasons he feels the need to give back to the writing community. "Being able to actually talk to a real writer and listen to them was so useful that I feel like I need to take the chances I get to do the same thing for other writers because there are so few opportunities for that."
Becoming good at any endeavor takes a lot of time investment, according to Sanderson. He wrote 13 books before publishing one.
"The biggest (advice to aspiring writers) is just to practice. If you really want to do this, look at other people who excel in their fields and ask yourself, 'how much time did they take?' These things take time and practice and hours, and if you want to learn to do that, you want to be a writer professionally, you're going to have to spend that time."
For more information on Sanderson or to read one of his novels, "Warbreaker," for free, visit www.brandonsanderson.com. Click here to read the first chapter of "A Memory of Light" on Tor.com.
If you go...
What: "A Memory of Light" release party
When: Monday, Jan. 7, 8 p.m.- Tuesday, Jan. 8, 4 a.m.
Where: Brigham Young University Bookstore, Provo, and Provo High School auditorium, 1125 N. University Ave., Provo,
7:30 a.m.: BYU Bookstore employees will hand out numbers to people in line
7:50 a.m.: Books can be bought in the bookstore and tickets picked up until 8 p.m.
7 p.m.: Provo High School auditorium opens for seating
8 p.m.: Reading and Q&A with Brandon Sanderson, Harriet McDougal who is Robert Jordan's widow, and Maria Simons, who was Robert Jordan's assistant, at Provo High School
10:30 p.m.: Meet and greet at the BYU bookstore with Brandon, trivia contests, prizes
11:45 p.m.: Lines begin in numerical order from tickets received earlier in the day
Midnight - 4 a.m.: Book pick-up and signing
Notes: All books are pre-signed, but Brandon Sanderson will personalize up to three books per person. Lines for books and personalizations at midnight will be ordered by ticket numbers picked up from the bookstore beginning at 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 7. Tickets are first come, first serve. Books must be prepaid for, but you can prepay at the bookstore from 7:50 a.m.-8 p.m. For pre-ordered books online, bring your receipt or confirmation number as proof of purchase.
What: Brandon Sanderson book signing
When: Friday, Feb. 1, 7 p.m.
Where: Weller Book Works, 607 Trolley Square, Salt Lake City