The day that fans have been eagerly anticipating for more than 20 years arrives on January 8 with the publication of A Memory of Light, the final entry in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.
Like the progress of time itself, this remarkable fantasy series has had a long and circuitous journey. Author James Oliver Rigney Jr. launched the series in 1990, writing under the pen name Robert Jordan, and continued it until his death in 2007.
After reading a heartfelt eulogy to Jordan by fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, Jordan’s widow and editor, Harriet McDougal, chose Sanderson for the difficult task of wrapping up the epic series. Working from Jordan’s voluminous notes, outlines, character lists and scenes (including the ending), Sanderson has completed the final three books in the series: The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light.
The final hefty volume, at more than 900 pages, will provide the answer that readers have clamored for: How will the Last Battle play out?
To provide a satisfying answer to that question, Sanderson was assisted by the members of “Team Jordan,” which includes Harriet McDougal, as well as longtime assistants/editors Maria Simons and Alan Romanczuk. We asked McDougal a few questions about this final chapter.
With Robert Jordan you did “curb-side editing” (editing a manuscript as it was written, chapter by chapter). How did your process work with Sanderson?
Harriet McDougal: With Brandon, Alan and Maria and I made broad-gauge suggestions and agreed with him on major trajectories, back in the spring of 2011. In early 2012, Brandon delivered a draft to us. We worked on this draft for weeks, sent revision suggestions back, doing this in bunches all spring long. In the summer of 2012 we worked long weeks on more revisions.
It was a different process. Remember, by the time of Jordan’s death we had worked together on about 20 books, Maria had been working with us for almost 12 years, and Alan for six.
It was more like working with Jordan on one of his early manuscripts. In the later books, he had already learned everything that would drive me nuts, so he didn’t do those things anymore.
What was the hardest part of seeing the series through to completion after your husband’s death?
The repeated reminder that he was no longer alive.
Can you share a favorite scene from A Memory of Light or from the series as a whole?
I have never forgotten Hopper’s death and joyful flight. Other than that, I love the whole series. And A Memory of Light as a whole.
How do you feel about the series coming to an end?
Sadness, joy and relief.