PW: You're one of today's major fantasy authors. Did you always know you wanted to write?

Robert Jordan: Yes, defining "always" as being from the age of five, but when I was about nine or 10, it became clear to me that writers couldn't make a living in the United States. They always had some other means of employment. The writers making a living seemed to live in Cuba or the south of France. I wasn't so sure about moving to the south of France when I was nine.

PW: Did you read fantasy as a boy?

RJ: Only prolifically. I loved Swift, reading Gulliver over and over again. My older brother introduced me to Huck Finn and the great writers. I read Tolkien only about a dozen times.

PW: Like Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings but unlike the works of other post-Tolkien writers, The Wheel of Time is unusual in being one novel, of which Crossroads of Twilight is the latest installment.

RJ: One novel, one very long novel. Because of the overlapping nature of the books, in the later books, they are not even sequential in the sense that the events of one book end and the next book begins. The events may begin back during the events of the preceding book.

PW: Would you recommend readers start with Crossroads of Twilight ?

RJ: For many years, I've seen bookstore managers' faces go deathly pale, the blood draining from their faces, when I told someone, "Put that nice expensive hardcover back on the shelf and go buy that paperback over there, because you have to start at the beginning with The Eye of the World. You start here and you are bound to get utterly confused and won't understand what's going on."

PW: Didn't you feel you had to make every book accessible to newcomers?

RJ: At first I thought I must make these books able to be picked by anybody at any place, but with the third book, The Dragon Reborn, I began to realize this wasn't possible. I have too much to explain that I've already explained. I was asked to write one-page summaries and I replied, "It can't be done."

PW: How do you approach your characters? For example, Tuon, a delightful tease to her would-be lover, Mat.

RJ: When I write from someone's point of view, I try to really get inside that person's skin and they become my favorite character, but I must say I like Tuon even when I'm writing from other points of view. She's an intelligent, capable woman who has grown up in a competitive and highly deadly atmosphere. She and her siblings must compete to prove their worth. The winner will be the heir to the throne. She is short, slender, and wishes she had more bosom and height, so she thinks she has no presence and must make up for it by her skill.

PW: You have so many characters, do you have a flow-chart posted on the wall?

RJ: Not really. It exists in my head. I tried once to put my characters down on paper and realized it was going to take as much time to write as the story. I think and write at the same time.

PW: Do you have a notion of when The Wheel of Time will be finished?

RJ: I can't exactly say. I can't get as much story into one book as I'd like, but one of the first things I came up with was the final scene of the final book. About 1984. I knew exactly where I was going.

PW: Couldn't later events alter that final scene?

RJ: Possibly, but I'd be surprised. You see, my characters don't write the book. I do. I am an Old Testament god, and they do what I want them to do.