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Fiction Blog

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An Interview with George R. R. Martin, Part I

An Interview with George R. R. Martin, Part I Photo © Parris

Recently, we had the opportunity to pose some questions to George R.R. Martin, author of the bestselling A Song of Ice and Fire series; book one of which being the basis for Season 1 of HBO’s A Game of Thrones.

We reached out to fans on the Indigo Blog, our friends on Facebook, and our Twitter followers for help with some questions, and now here is part one of Mr. Martin’s answers.  Check back with us for Part Two in the coming days.

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Bryant Harte, Indigo Fiction Blog: We put out a call on our Fiction Blog so that the fans out there could submit their questions to you, which we have pared down and lumped together.  I have about 10 questions here, or 10 themes to go over in the next half hour.  I do want to say that we did get a lot of positive feedback.  Many fans just wanted to thank you for the series and say that they love your work.  I count myself among them and have been reading since the late 90s, and we have many other people at Indigo waiting for your book with bated breath.

George R.R. Martin: I’ve just got it myself.  I just opened my package from Bantam.  It’s the first time I’ve held a copy in my hands, that’s always a thrill.

IFB: Oh it’s great. Great cover too. I see the artist changed the mapping inside as well.  It’s very nice.

GRRM: Yes, they got a new map artist and we got a couple new maps, we added those and redid the old maps to match with a similar style so it looks very nice.

IFB: It does look nice.  Alright, then I’ll start off.  Many of the questions we received from fans regarded the final length of A Song of Ice and Fire.  I myself have been going through them over the last month, re-reading the series and blogging as I have been going through.  I was wondering if you are able to finish it within the seven volumes you have set out?  I must admit, I don’t want it to finish myself.  Are you still on track for the completion within seven volumes after finishing A Dance With Dragons and, in the same vein, do you have any thoughts of any additional series set in Westeros, maybe back in the time of Aegon the Conqueror or something like that?

GRRM: Well, it’s still my intent to finish it in seven books but I’m not willing to, you know, write that in blood or anything.  Obviously I have a history here of being repeatedly wrong about that.  I mean way back in the mid-90s when I started this it was a trilogy and it grew to four books and then to six books and then to seven books. Tolkien once said about Lord of the Rings “the tale grew in the telling” and certainly my tale has been growing all along.  Seven books is still my goal but you know, I’ll know better as I actually get into writing book 6 and then book seven whether I can do it in that length or not.  My goal here is to tell the story from beginning to end.  However many books it requires for the story to be told….I’m not going to truncate the story or anything just to get it into an arbitrary number of volumes.  But seven is still what I’m aiming at. 

As for other series, other things, well, I have signed a deal.  I just signed a contract with Bantam to do a collection of my Dunk & Egg novellas, which take place in Westeros a hundred years before.  We’re going to do a collection of the first four of those (three of which are already written).  The fourth one I have yet to write, and that one will appear in the anthology “Dangerous Women,” which I’m editing with Gardner Dozois.  And then after “Dangerous Women” it will be reprinted in this collection.  And there will be more Dunk & Eggs.  Four does not tell the entire story.  I want to take these two characters through their entire lives and that will probably require, I don’t know, eight, nine, ten, twelve novellas.  Written over the years, I sort of slipped them in between the books so it’ll take me a while.  But, you know, that’s more Westeros material.  As to what I’m going to write after that, I really don’t know.  That’s so many years in the future…whatever I said now, I would probably change my mind whenever I reached it anyway.

IFB: I don’t think your fans will ever have their fill of that—I know I won’t.  I know I can continue reading everything until the end of days.  We also received many questions regarding (and I know you’ve talked about this in many places as well) your inspiration for the series. In addition to the many inspirations that you discussed before, have there been any new influences on your writing since you began the series?

GRRM: No, I don’t really think so. Of course I’m always reading.  I think everything you read and see and experience in life influences you to some extent or another.  But in terms of direct inspirations, no, I don’t think anything new.

IFB: Maybe it’s the originality that everyone likes.  It doesn’t seem to be in that traditional fantasy vein.  It’s a bit rougher edged, more real I guess.

GRRM: Of course, fantasy itself is becoming rougher edged.  There’s a lot of other writers who now, you know, kind of doing the same thing and in some cases going even beyond.  I mean some of the fantasy I’ve read recently makes my stuff look tame by comparison [laughs].

IFB: Any specific names of authors out there that are more along your lines, as we do get questions about what other things fans can read after they have finished Martin.  I’ve been wracking my brain to think of something that’s actually comparable to your work.

GRRM: Well, I really like the young fantasy authors out there; they are doing some terrific work.  I really like the work of my friend Daniel Abraham, who’s just started a new fantasy series with The Dragon’s Path and already has written a terrific one called The Long Price Quartet.  I think Joe Abercrombie is doing some terrific work.  I love Scott Lynch’s Locke Lamora series.  So those are three right there that they can take a look at. 

I also think that fantasy fans should go back and read the classics: obviously Tolkien if you haven’t read him, but also works like Fritz Leiber’s classic Fahfrd and the Grey Mousers stories; the original Conan stories by Robert E. Howard and his other characters like Bran Mak Morn and Solomon Kane; Jack Vance, one of my all-time favourites, the marvellous The Dying Earth stories by Jack Vance.  We just did a tribute anthology to him just a couple years ago called Songs of the Dying Earth.  Original Dying Earth stories written by old fantasy writers who were shaped and influenced by Jack Vance’s classic stuff.

IFB: I know the readers will be happy to have a lot of choice and options from that list.

GRRM: Oh and Roger Zelasny.  Nine Princes in Amber.  I mean that’s an all-time classic.  They should definitely read those.

IFB: Great, thank you for that. You mentioned before it was originally a series of three now expanded to seven; do you have tucked away somewhere the complete outlines of what you actually want to tell or has the ending changed as you gone along?

GRRM: The ending hasn’t changed. I know the ending I’m heading for.  It’s like a journey and I know my eventual destination.  I know the main roads I’m going to take to go there and  the cities I’m passing through but I don’t necessarily know all the fine details of the journey, that’s what I discover along the way.  You know, where I’m going to stop for dinner and what hitchhikers I’m going to pick up, where I’m going to hit a bump, where my car is gonna break down.  So that’s the sort of adventure of going on a journey or the adventure of writing a book.  But I do know my ultimate destination.

IFB: Taking into account that we haven’t yet read A Dance With Dragons, do you have any plans for the other characters to visit some of the other areas you haven’t explored yet, such as Valyria or Asshai? Also on Valyria, will we learn more about the Doom?

GRRM: Well you learn more about the Doom in A Dance With Dragons and yes you may learn in subsequent volumes; you may learn even more about that and I don’t know if you’ll see Valyria itself but you’ll see….you know it’s a country so there’s a city in the heart of it and it’s a large country, but you may see glimpses of the fringes of the Doom.  Actually Asshai’s another question; it’s kind of at the other end of the world.  I’m not sure if we’ll actually ever go to Asshai.  You may learn more about it through Melisandre or other people remembering it or talking about it.

IFB: Through the first four volumes, there have been character deaths a-plenty in the series.  Are there any particular characters from the first four books that you have missed or that were the most difficult for you to kill off?  On the inverse of that, were there any characters that you don’t really like that much and were easy to remove from the storyline?

GRRM: [laughs] You know, all of the major characters, I can’t say that I miss them.  I always knew that they were going to die at a certain point but that doesn’t mean that those scenes were necessarily easy to write. The Red Wedding was the hardest thing I ever wrote.  I wrote that last in that book in Storm of Swords.  When I actually reached that, it occurs about two thirds of the way through the book; I skipped over it…

IFB: It was hard to read for me as well.

GRRM: Yeah, it was tough, it was emotionally wrenching.  You know, some of the small characters I probably kill without thinking but they’re small characters and they’re hardly developed at all.  They’re tertiary characters and in some cases just names and if I’m writing a battle scene, you know, and the Night’s Watch is fighting and a bunch of people are going to die, I sort of look at my list of Night’s Watch characters and say ‘ok, this guy dies, this guy dies, this guy dies’.  But they’re hardly worth really considering as characters.

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Read Part Two of this extensive interview that no fans of the series will want to miss.

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