The Citadel is an archive of information for George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.
New to the series? Read our spoiler-free review of A Game of Thrones.
[Note: This transcript is provided by Deborah Beale, wife of fantasy author Tad Williams, whose "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn" series was a significant influence on GRRM's "A Song of Ice and Fire". The transcript was streamed by Ms. Beale over Williams's twitter account.]
Tad: I want to thank the folks responsible for tonight – whoah, slow down, what an enthusiastic bunch! First let me thank the very kind people from one of the world’s finest indie booksellers, and that’s Kepler’s Books. And also let me thank the management at the beautiful Fox Theatre.I’m acting as your agent, taking questions for our esteemed guest. He and I have known each other for some time laboring in the same fields. A few years ago we were talking at a convention and I was telling George how not thrilled I was about my comic-book company experiences – I was being treated like a brand-new writer -- OK I was whining. And when I told this to George he looked up and in that Jacobean way of his he said, "That’s outrageous, they should treat you like a visiting prince." But I know YOU folks know how to treat visiting royalty, right?
Ladies and gentlemen, applause please for our very own visiting royalty – Mr George R R Martin!
GRRM: Thank you. It’s great to be here. It’s quite a year for me -- it’s quite a week for me. This bookstore has been terrific for me and I take special pleasure in returning to Redwood City and Keplers. In 1996 when they sent me on my first tour for A Game of Thrones, I had been a prince in exile for a number of decades. I had been working in Hollywood and I wasn’t well known any more in the SF field and I did a number of signings where the turn-out was minimal, and in some cases hypothetical. But there were a few exceptions to that – Kentucky – and Keplers. Keplers sold more copies of >A Game of Thrones than any bookstore in the USA. It is great to return to the scene of the crime!
The format here is I’m going to say a few remarks and answer a few of the frequently asked questions, then turn it over to you before I begin debasing your books.
Tad’s fantasy series, The Dragonbone Chair and the rest of his famous four-book trilogy was one of the things that inspired me to write my own seven-book trilogy. I read Tad and was impressed by him, but the imitators that followed -- well, fantasy got a bad rep for being very formulaic and ritual. And I read >The Dragonbone Chair and said, "My god, they can do something with this form," and it’s Tad doing it. It’s one of my favorite fantasy series.
The FAQs – like, what the hell took me so damn long? That’s a heavy one and you know it’s complicated -- strange things going around the internet like I had the book finished but was hiding it. But in an excess of optimism I’d hit 1,500 pages for A Feast for Crows and my publisher was saying, when is this going to end? How many thousand more pages? And I said, I don’t know – maybe 5, maybe 6, maybe 800. I pulled out of it 500pp for A Dance with Dragons, leaving about 1,000 pages. So Feast came out and then I had those pages left over. I thought, I’ll write another 500pp, it’ll take a year and then I’ll have another book of comparable size and I made my infamous mistake. It goes down with famous last words, like that civil war cannon ball can’t possibly hit us. But when it was finally complete, the book was another 1,500 pages and in addition as I got into it I didn’t like those 500 pages that I had pulled. I would up rewriting a lot of them, so really only a couple of hundred got pulled from Feast and made it into Dance. That’s what took so long and I know some of you were a gleam in your father’s eye when I was starting, but eventually it will all be done and eventually it will all be good.
More FAQ - what do you think of the HBO series – well, I think the HBO series is great. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky in the people I’ve been partnered with. The New York Times bestseller list, the books have been climbing since the first one just made the extended list at #13. And now we’re #1 for the second week in a row. Initially, Hollywood contact was screenwriters and studios, and I thought about that and there are temptations to say yes to something like that dumptruck of money. But fortunately I had no need and I could exercise a little thought. I couldn’t see that my book would make a 2.5 hour movie… What it needs is the sort of treatment Tolkien got, and nobody’s going to commit to how big it would be. I had the luxury of saying what is always always the sexiest word in Hollywood: No. But if you say it enough eventually you get an offer you can’t say no to, and the offer is right. I sat down with the showrunners and producers in the Palm restaurant in LA and we thought out the film.
I said, It can’t be network, they will take out all the sex and violence and put it in an 8 o’clock time slot, god help me. All around us, little by little people are leaving and we’re still drinking coffee, and then people started coming in for dinner and we were still talking. We got great stuff right there. Sean Bean for Ned Stark and Peter Dinklage for Tyrion came right there at that meeting. I had a little TV experience so I didn’t frighten them so much, since I knew the realities of budgets, shooting, the costs of sheds for the actors and their care and feeding. I write one script per season but I can’t write more unless you want the books even later than they are. I’m consulted and we talk frequently, and I see all the audition tapes. Sometimes they listen to me, sometimes not so much. It’s been a great process with Dan Weiss and David Benioff. We’ve had a fabulous casting director –- great actors –- some straight out of drama school, and the kids are incredible, kids who had only done school plays before they were canst and now they’re on HBO movies, that’s very exciting. So I am thrilled to be doing the HBO series and we started filming 3 days ago on the second season. Hopefully there’ll be a third and a fourth too.
Tad: A question from the audience -- what will happen if HBO catches up to you?
GRRM: I’m doing the best I can. I hope they won’t catch up with me!
Tad: Another question from the audience -- would you allow someone else to finish for you and who do you think could do the job well? [jokes] That was a suggestion from K J Anderson – thanks, Kevin, for the question!!!
GRRM: No one is going to finish for me. But if I’ll be dead…. No. I intend to finish this for myself.
Tad: There would be so many people out there following you around in case you tripped--
GRRM: One of the many good things about fans is, if I ever need a kidney – hey!
Tad: Question: Do you purposely start a character as bad so you can later kill them?
GRRM: No. What is bad? Bad is a label. We are human beings with heroism and self-interest and avarice in us and any human is capable of great good or great wrong. In Poland a couple of weeks ago I was reading about the history of Auschwitz – there were startling interviews with the people there. The guards had done unthinkable atrocities, but these were ordinary people. What allowed them to do this kind of evil? Then you read accounts of acts of outrageous heroism, yet the people are criminals or swindlers, one crime or another, but when forced to make a choice they make a heroic choice. This is what fascinated me about the human animal. A lot of fantasy turns on good and evil – but my take on it is that it’s fought within the human heart every day, and that’s the more interesting take. I don’t think life is that simple.
Tad: All of us work with multiple viewpoints – I hear this next question a lot: with story-driven plots, how do you decide which character viewpoint to write from – do you write several characters, taste them, then decide?
GRRM: No, not several, at least not intentionally. I had more choice early in the series, I frequently had situations where 2 or 3 were present at the same time. But as it’s progressed they have dispersed, so I need to be in the viewpoint of whoever’s there. There are some cases when I have a choice and in that case, I weigh which one. Without talking exactly about "The Mereenese Knot" – I’m not going to talk exactly about it, but but [there was a time when] a number of viewpoints were coming together in Mereen for a number of events, and I was wrestling with order and viewpoint. The different points-of-view had different sources of knowledge and I never could quite solve it. I was rewriting the same chapter over and over again – this, that, viewpoint? – spinning my wheels. It was one of the more troublesome thickets I encountered. There’s a resolution not to introduce new viewpoint characters, but the way I finally dealt with things was with Barristan, I introduced him as a viewpoint character as though he’d been there all along. That enabled me to clear away some of the brush.
Tad: Question: do you choose characters because they will provide you with a viewpoint or something characterful?
GRRM: Actually, no. I try to give each viewpoint character an arc of his own, and ideally I would like to think that you could pull the material out – in the early books I was able to pull out the Daenerys chapters and publish them separately as a novella, and I won a Hugo Award for that. It'd be great if I could pull out each [character-arc] and it would resemble a story. In some cases a character died and that was a very short story. My prologue and epilogue characters always die but even then I try to give them a story.
Tad: You say that like they’re the only ones. We know better, George! Tapping a vein of reader interest here – do present-day events factor into your writing, and how much do you have real-life political events in mind?
GRRM: I think there’s some of that going on, yeah, you know. But I’m not setting out to write a political allegory. Tolkien was often accused of that with ‘Rings,’ WW2 or WW1, I don’t feel quite sure of the point but there’s probably some influences, some critic could study it. But I hate it when they say stuff like Stannis is actually [some real-life source.]
Tad: question - do you mourn any of the characters you killed -- ps you’re a genius -- ?
GRRM: Actually I do mourn the characters I kill. You have live with that, become that, crawl inside its skin. Some of my characters are like me and some are very unlike me, but the emotional core is still me reaching inside, which all writers do I think. All inspiration becomes grist for the mill. The only person we really know down deep is ourselves -- the demons in the dark -- I am all these people in some sense, so I kill an aspect of myself and its difficult but I do it anyway.
Tad: I can see the bumper-sticker -- Authors don’t kill characters – Characters kill characters. You’ve been living with some of these characters for quite a long stretch now. How much of the idea of the story did you have when you started?
GRRM: Nothing. I had nothing, I was writing another novel that I’d started in ‘91, but I had a few months off before pitch season started so I began Avalon, an SF novel, and it was going reasonably well, 30 to 40 pages. Suddenly a first chapter came to me so vividly and it could not possibly be part of Avalon. It was so vivid I had to write it. I started and 50, 60 pages were there suddenly, then I drew a map, then I put it aside for 3 years because I sold a pilot and did some screenplays. But the characters were in my head, and when I returned to it in ‘94 it was like, 3 days had passed. Which was unusual for me, it hadn’t been like that, I have trouble switching from 1 character to another and if I’m away from something for too long, it pulled away from me. I have a famous unfinished novel, Black and White and Red All Over, but these characters wouldn’t leave me alone. And they’re insisting I still have a long way to go.
Tad: Will we ever see Asshai or the Shadow?
GRRM: You may hear about it and you may get flashback scenes from characters who have been there and you can puzzle it out on the internet. But I don’t know. I may return to write other stories set in this world. I want you to return to Osten Ard by the way.
Tad: Do you have any moment to share from all this where it was – Wow oh wow…
GRRM: There’s been a half dozen this past year. It was incredible last week at Comic Con on the ‘Game of Thrones’ panel -- Comic Con is a madhouse, there’s nothing like it on earth, 150,000 in one room -- we were 4,200 people [at that panel.] I was moderator and all these people were screaming and making that sound strange squealing sound when they see famous people--
GRRM: It was startling. I could see the cast come out, but that one was about me. Ok! That was pretty cool. And a couple of months before that, being named one of the Time 100. Well, I’m now trying to use my immense influence for good. I’m going to settle this debt thing, and reform the Hugo rules and their ridiculous categories, and I’m going to solve the NFL, I told them so… It’ll be another great year for the Jets and we’re gonna kick the Raiders’ asses. [risible, mixed audience reaction re. local team]
I want to apologize for not personalizing people’s books. In Slovenia there was a thousand people in line, waiting, and four of the fainted. We can’t do posed photos, same reasons, we have to move the line along. I’m signing for four hours. Please don’t look at me all big puppy dogs – I can’t do that!!! I do want to meet all of you briefly – and if you have a question, well, say it quick, don’t ask me if you can ask a question because then you’ve just asked the question!
Tad: Thanks everyone, and now the signing can commence.
I showed up to B&N a little before 4 and the seats had already filled up, so I took a seat on the floor in the standing room line. I was early enough that I was about 60 or 70 people back in line, which meant I still got through pretty quickly once the signing began and was out a little before 9. Big props to the B&N staff for keeping things organized and moving quickly.
George got a standing ovation when he came up the escalator and his first words on the microphone were, "Wow. See, I really was working on it!" He talked about how much bigger the crowds are now than when he was on the book tour for AGOT and told the story of how the four people at a signing in St. Louis got up and left as he was about to start ("Some writers talk about having no one show up to their signings, but I think I'm the only one who can claim a turnout of negative 4!").
George said he'd talk about the three questions he gets most often. Most people here know the answer to "What took you so long?" The second question was "When will the next one be out?", and he said "It will be done when it's done. I've learned my lesson not to make promises." He also said he hoped to have the ASOIAF World Book out next year. The third question was "What do you think of the TV show?", and his answer was "I love the TV show, I think it's amazing." He talked about the Emmy nominations (Peter Dinklage's nomination drew the biggest applause), mentioned that ADWD had the biggest first-day sales of any new novel published in 2011, and then opened the floor up for questions.
Quick summary of audience questions and GRRM's answers (the quoted parts are my notes filled out to the best of my memory):
Q: Is it possible the tale will grow in the telling again and we will see eight book?
A: "I would like to do it in 7," but he didn't want to make any promises.
Q: Do the many gods serve any other purpose?
A: George answered this by talking about what he sees as the two schools of readers: those interested mainly in plot and those who are interested in the entire experience. "My philosophy of fiction is not necessarily all about advancing the plot... I want to give my readers a vicarious experience. Ten years later, I don't want you to remember you read a book, I want you to remember you lived an experience."
Q: What new advice for young writers did you learn by writing Dance?
A: "Don't try to write something so gigantic! When I finish the series I'm never going to do it again," adding that he would write more short stories and standalones. His summary of advice to young writers is "write everyday," "read voraciously" in multiple genres, and "start with short stories."
Q: What is the last book you read that you thought was great?
A: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey. George admitted he was a bit biased as Corey is really his assistant Ty and his friend Daniel Abraham, but he did love the book.(Right after he said this, a B&N employee walked down the aisle I was standing in, grabbed a big stack of copies of Leviathan Wakes, and brought them out to a table by the top of the down escalator. I heard later that they sold all of them by the end of the night.)
Q: Is a certain POV character in ADWD gay?
A: "I can't answer without spoiling, but if you're talking about what I think you're talking about, then yes." George mentioned that there are gay characters in ASOIAF. He mentioned Loras & Renly, saying that he included "what I thought were subtle but clear hints. HBO was not subtle about it."
Q: Will you make a cameo in the HBO series?
A: "Probably, though you'll have to watch very carefully." He told the story of his cameo in the original pilot and the crazy hat he wore as a Tyroshi.
Q: How do you stay plugged into the story and keep track of the details?
A: "Most of the stuff is kepts in my head. I do have notes and charts, but not as many as I should." And he emails Ran with questions about character details. :) He said he gets upset with himself when he makes a mistake, because there are already intentional mistakes in what characters say. "Some inconsistencies are deliberate. There are unreliable narrators, especially when they are remembering things."
Q: Did you have to fight with your publisher to keep that huge thing that happens in the first book? (There was a no spoiler policy in effect for the Q&A.)
Q: How long should an aspiring writer stick with one idea?
A: "If an idea comes to you and demands to be written, you need to write it." (My apologies for not taking better notes on the answer.)
Q: Hodor hodor hodor, hodor hodor, hodor hodor hodor hodor?
A: "Definitely hodor."
And then he started signing books, and then we all ended up at Professor Thom's where the bar had made a sign for the "Game of Thrones Fan Party" on the second floor, and it was a good time.
[Note: This report refers to the question of Jeyne Westerlings hips, described by Catelyn as being "good" for the purposes of having children, and described by Jaime as "narrow". This seeming contradiction has sparked theories that the girl Jaime sees and is told is Jeyne is in fact an impostor.]
I actually asked GRRM about this at the union square signing. When he spoke he said some mismatched descriptions are him doing it on purpose, and some are mistakes. And the mistakes are really unfortunate because it detracts from when he does it on purpose.
When we approached the stage for signings we had the chance to ask a quick question, and he told me that that the hips were a mistake unfortunately.
George showed up, got big applause. Is currently explaining what took so long. The story we all know. Some on his writing process. Sometimes writes several of the same pov chapters in a row. Lots of people are recording this so more complete synopses will be available, doubtless. Comments that he knew it would annoy people to move his most popular characters out of A Feast for Crows but that he didn't realize just HOW annoyed people would get.
Made a quip about his bit at the end of AFFC about the next book being along in a year. "It took longer than I thought, but here we are in 2007 and dance is out!" References the chapbook with the first three Dany chapters from 2005 and that it offers insight as to how much the book has changed since then. Some jokes about football. Shouts of "Go Pats!" from some in the crowd, getting laughs. Oh, Boston. Actively not promising TWOW next year. Hopes it won't take as long as AFFC and ADWD. But "no promises" and "there are lots of other good books". Promotes Abraham, Lynch and Rothfuss.
A dude directly across from me looks like the undertaker's ugly brother. He never smiles. I'm saying right now that if something awful happens, he probably did it. George lauds Gwendolen Christie (Brienne). Says a half dozen other roles have been cast but he can't talk about them yet. They're going to start filming next season. As executive producer he writes one episode per season. Says he'd like to write more than one, but that we'd get to wait twenty years for The Winds of Winter rather than the six for A Dance with Dragons.
Still seven books and favorite character?
Favorite is Tyrion but he loves them all, even the slimeballs. Still aiming for seven books but no promises.
Any potential future for Syrio Forel?
Martin gives no comment.
Aging up of characters in the show?
The prime reason was Dany, since it was felt they couldn't show a thirteen year old girl going through what she goes through. Real medieval culture had no adolescence so he goes with that in the books. Modern society doesn't go with that, so while a married thirteen year old having sex is fine in a book, but moving to tv would necessitate either removal of sex scenes or aging her. In the UK an adult actor can't portray an underage character in sexual situations legally. So by upping her age they ended up upping other kids' ages.
The other factor being that casting child actors is harder than casting teenage and young adult actors. Kid actors recite words but don't act much or else try overact and overemote.
Jokes about why he never wrote a Rickon POV. "I have an inner child, but it's not that young."
What if HBO catches up?
They won't catch up! "I have a big head start."
Any pov characters in Casterly Rock?
Yes, maybe in TWOW.
The first two books were big and written fast, was that a creative spurt?
Parts of A Clash of Kings were ending up in A Gameo of Thrones, so he cut it off and when A Game of Thrones was published a lot of A Clash of Kings was written. He admits that A Storm of Swords was written quickly. Moved a Sansa chapter to The Winds of Winter because it was the beginning of a plot so worked better in a new book.
How are you dealing with the crush of fandom?
"Ask me at the end of this signing". 1500 people here, big but not as big as the 2000 in Slovenia. A Feast for Crows had the first really scary signings for him. Mentions his rules to keep the line moving. Four people in Slovenia fainted.
What's it like having your books translated to tv?
"it's been great for me!" since he worked in tv for so long he knows what to expect realistically from an adaption.
What would you name your direwolf?
Depends on personality. Has a cat named Asha.
[Note: This article reports on Martin's trip to Slovenia, and is in Slovenian. However, the embedded video features Martin discussing the genesis of the novels and shows other details from his trip.]
[Note: This report is somewhat garbled, but we'll leave the text as is. In fact, it's not the title of the story -- it is, instead, the title of the anthology that the novella will appear in, the title giving away the theme of the anthology... and so still supporting the idea that it likely involves the Wolf Women of Winterfell.]
That's the title for the planned fourth Dunk&Egg novella. George said as much Friday last week in Poland. I was there. Unfortunately the other answers to questions are not that revealing.
George swore that if he was ever going to consider doing another cameo it would involve sitting in a chair, preferably with a large drink in hand. The life of an extra, standing hours in costume during dozens of takes was not high on his list!
One bit I found amusing was talking about creating names for writing. George first did a brief rundown on English names during the middle ages. Essentially a few simple names dominate. If your name wasn't Henry, Edward, or possibly Richard, you weren't going down in the history books. Then he talked about hearing interesting names and keeping those for future stories. He said when watching the NFL draft each year he picks up a couple of neat names for future use. Now I won't be surprised when Ser Ochocinco pops up in book 7...
George did mention you a few times Ran, He said he thought his hearaldry was pretty awesome until you actually produced them.
A few of the interesting bits that I recall off of the top of my head were some questions about the heraldry and armour. Westeros has better technology with dyes, than Medieval Europe did. Thats why they are able to great consistent colors such as scarlet, crimson, or burgandy rather than just red. Also they have ways to enamel or infuse colors to armour which weren't available to medieval smiths.
During the first Q&A someone asked if he had plans if he was "unable to finish the series." George asked for him to be stripped naked and be tossed out in the snow. :P He then said well at least you didn't say "pulled a Jordan". He actual did go on to reiterate he had no plans, but that if he were in a sitation like Jordan, he could forsee making contingency plans.
Then during the HBO Q&A he was asked what would happen when the TV show caught up to his writing. The audience groaned. George asked for this person to be stripped naked and tossed in the snow. He did say he felt he had a pretty decent head start, so hoped it wouldn't come to that. He also said that if something should happen to him , that David, and DB do know how the series ends. That was news to me.
The other bit of news was that at one point George tossed out the phrase 7 or 8 books in the series. I had not heard mention of a possible expansion to 8 books before.
One thing that I GRRM mentioned that I had not read before was that he filmed a cameo for the pilot in Morocco. It had been subsequently cut because everything was refilmed in Malta. Sorry if that is old news and I missed it.
After the reading, GRRM talks for awhile. He apologizes for the delay with aDwD. He states that past claims to have the book nearly finished were not attempts to deceive, just that he is guilty of "bouts of excessive optimism". He also comments on how his publishers claimed at the San Diego Comi-Con that there are only 5 chapters remaining. He states that this is true until he finishes one of those chapters and then decides that that chapter is too long and needs to be split into two chapters and then that causes adjustments needing to be made to other chapters, etc. Please be patient, he is honestly working on it the best he can. He talked about some other stuff, but none of it was especially note-worthy. Fun for those in attendance, but really worth rehashing here.
Then he did a non-HBO series Q/A (There is another Q/A later this evening dedicated specifically to the HBO series). Zero spoilers were released here. Any question even slightly spoilerish in nature was turned away, not even any subtle hints. I found only 2 questions especially interesting. Someone asked whether any of the songs in asoiaf were fully fleshed out (The Bear and the Maiden Fair, The Reynes of Castamere, etc)? GRRM replied that only the portion of the songs that exist in the books has been written and nothing else. He did comment on how he wished he had more musical talent. He joked about how so many of his former works have the word Song in them (A Song of Ice and Fire, A Song for Lya, Songs of Stars and Shadows, Songs the Dead Men Sing, Songs of the Dying Earth, Songs of Love and Death, etc). He says that when he was younger he was friends with a group of kids that had their own garage band and once they threw a party and a lot of pretty girls showed up and the band members were having a lot of luck with the girls and when 2 pretty girls asked him what instrument he played he replied, "the typewriter". "I went on to use that line many times but it never got me laid", he joked. The other question was how does he pronounce some of the characters names? He pauses, looks at us and goes, "Jon Snow, Ned Stark". After the laughing died down he did go through some of the more challenging names, though I don't have the linguistic ability to reproduce them phonetically here.
Here is a brief report on the panel with Kristian Nair that happened the other day at Octocon. The Rabbit has already posted a small report at WiC, but here are some of the things that I found interesting that weren't mentioned in the other report:
- So far Kristian has been in several scenes as a background character. IIRC, he has only had to say 'Hodor' twice so far. This week, however, his participation will become much more active and will involve jumping out of a bush.
- Kristian's make-up takes about an hour or less to put on every day and is rather sparse. His tattooes (face, hands) are covered during this process. He does not wear a wig and his hair is maintained as its natural color. He originally wasn't sure about that element since he has silvery-greyish hair, but now he has seen stills of him and Bran together and they look amazing. His costume is relatively simple and very hot.
- Spoiler: There will be a dramatic change in his appearance halfway through the series that will entail a change in his make-up.
- He and Isaac Hempestead Wright (Bran) are getting along well. I asked if he could tell some story about the kids and he produced one immediately, laughing that Isaac was going to kill him for telling it. Apparently Kristian got an iPhone last week and he got the Harry Potter wand app. Isaac was using his phone or something and did a very vigorous Expelliarmus that accidently, much to Isaac's chagrin, sent Kristian's iPhone sailing across the room to shatter! I personally think it just demonstrates Bran's future magical bad-assery, exhibiting itself from the very beginning. :)
- Originally they had planned for Isaac to come along as well and they would enter together with Isaac on his back, but Isaac's filming schedule is very tiring so he couldn't make it in the end.
- Isaac Hempestead Wright is extremely charismatic and is a pleasure to be around. He is also already a consummate actor - Kristian has never seen him mess up a line even once.
- Some of the cast have been more dedicated than others in reading the books. Others have been using the Wiki's to figure out what happens to their characters. D & D know some things that will be revealed in future books and GRRM is willing to tell some of the actors spoilery things about their characters futures if they really want/need to know.
- The kids seem to get along really well together and seem to be having fun. They are already a tight group.
- Kristian realizes that for the rest of his life fans will be coming up to him asking that he 'say the line.' He tries not to read the Board or forums because '50% of the time you hear what you want, 50% of the time you don't, and then you spend every day at home hiding under the duvet.' He has already been recognized; one night when he was doing a DJ set he looked up to see somebody taking pictures of him.
- So far he hasn't heard any of the cast or crew say bad things about us, the fans. [Phew. Crossing my fingers it stays that way/]
Afterwards Kristian and George stood for pictures. Then Kristian was kind enough to let the fans take pictures, get autographs and chat with him in the hotel bar before he had to drive back to Belfast. He was great and I want to thank him on behalf of all of us for being willing to hang out! You rule, Kristian! Rock On! Up the Irons! Raise the Fist of the Metal Child! So on and so forth!
That's all I can remember for now. If I think of anything else I will post again.
When I arrived at GRRM’s panel on screenwriting today scheduled at 2 pm, I noticed a familiar face sitting next to him at the table. It was like…who the hell is this big guy? I’ve seen him somewhere before? He has got a beard, some sort of silver hair…maybe another hidden Targaryen? In the next second it was like: OMG It is Kristian Nairn. It is our Hodor! He has arrived at last!
And I can tell you. Kristian is very nice, friendly, a geek himself (as he stated) playing WoW for many years.
It was GRRM, obviously very pleased with Kristian’s presence at Octocon, who posed many of the questions to him.
So, I am gonna relate as many answers as I was able to write down. Thankfully, SerMountainGoat from Westeros forums was filming all the session, and promised to upload it on youtube. Yes, I have some pics too. But I must find a way to upload it from the camera.
Well, here is what Kristian has to say about GOT:
First of all, he stated, the sets are unbelievable, he said he has not seen such a thing in his whole life. They shot most of his scenes in the Paint Hall and at Castle Ward so far. He would appear in 5 or 6 episodes, and yes they have been reshooting the pilot scenes with him.
He said he has read only the first book – and that it was amazing, at which point he became kind of red in the face, saying this in front of GRRM.
He pointed out that he was fascinated with kids and how they are bonding together as a real family. There is also a small, funny story involving Kristian, Isaac and Kristian’s mobile..
He said Isaac is a fantastic kid – small and light. Then continued "hopefully he would stay that way" – to much laughter. He also described the basket he uses – it is made of leather and it is very well crafted.
He mentioned his Vimeo audition and that he was not very pleased with it himself. We got to that subject, because GRRM himself admitted he had been shocked by it. Positively.
He also described his costume as very simple but very warm, and he has some trouble wearing it under all those lights on set.
It was a very funny moment when somebody asked: Are you afraid of us fans? He answered: Not at all.
GRRM repeated many of the things he already mentioned at Worldcon. Pointed out once again the possibility of making ASOS into two seasons (if we get there) and making all the stuff of AFFC and ADWD all together, not separately.
He mentioned once again his concern with the butterfly effect. And the influence that the series eventually could produce on his writings, he mentioned one character he might change a bit due to that (I think it is Osha).
GRRM also stated that the composer has been picked up but not yet announced.
Question 1 - How can I be an extra?
He doesn't know. He's suggested to HBO that they sell the rights to be an extra.
(Someone brought up information about Extras Northern Ireland about being an extra.)
Currently looking for swarthy men who can ride horses. (He didn't think the person asking would meet the requirements for swarthy.) He hears they are looking for a certified butcher. Then you would have a chance.
Question 2 - When will the show appear on tv?
He doesn't know. Next year some time. Earliest would be March or April or May...maybe next fall if HBO decides to delay it. He thinks most likely next spring.
Question 3 - Does he have a walk on part on the show?
We will have to watch and see. Maybe.
Okay now on to the reading...I'll try to post the Q&As as they are asked when we get to them in a while...
I apologize in advance for any errors but I'm typing on a tiny computer on my lap with no spellcheck.
Question 4 - Where do you come up with all the character names?
He makes them up. Names are sometimes difficult and he struggles to find the right name for a character...one that sounds right. As a young writer when you are learning how to write - other writers tell you the rules - like you should never have 2 characters with names that start with the same letter. He followed this for years. You don't want Edward and Edmund in the same story. Its a great rule but with ASOIAF, more than 26 characters so he would run out of letters. So he drew inspiration from English history where everyone is named Edward or Henry with a Richard here and there. You differentiate the way historians do. The Percy family (Northumberland) loves the name Henry but they have nicknames for each title holder like Hotspur. He wanted that sense of realism with his names. So Brandon occurs frequently. Tries to make each family with naming patterns that are still a little different. But with innkeepers...wtf to name them? When the name is right, you feel it is right and when you don't have that feel you keep casting about for them. Tolkien had a gift for names. He not a linguist or Oxford don so can't hope to duplicate this. Jack Vance great with names.
Question 5 - As you are writing, how much of your day is consumed with the series?
It varies day to day. He does stop thinking about it when in the middle of other things. In the fall, he takes Sundays off from work due to American football games but works the other 6 days. The rest of the year he works 7 days a week. This doesn't mean he is writing that whole time. As a writer he has many obligations - correspondence, covers to approve, contracts to sign, 3-4 agents to deal with, movie deals - this all infringes on writing time. But ASOIAF is always there in his mind. Sometimes he gets into grooves where writing is going well and he will devote more time to it. On such days, starts work in the morning and vanishes into the word and when he stops and looks up it is dark outside. These are great days. When this happens it can last for several weeks and he will get lots of writing done. But then everything else is neglected and publishers will start calling with demands and he has to switch his attention to them. He wishes there were 3 of him or twice as many hours in a day.
Question 6 - How much development of story before he starts writing a book?
When he began writing, nothing in advance. He barely knew who the characters were. Its an ongoing process and it does get complicated. He has all these fans which is great - but they are sons of bitches and will point out mistakes.
Question 7 - Jim Butcher relies on fans to keep the details. Do your fans help you with the details?
He has his own notes. He has uber fan - Ran - when he is doubtful about something he runs it past Ran...like re eye colors. Eye color...he regrets giving anyone colored eyes. Some stuff you can kind of look up - thank god for search and replace to see every mention of a certain character - but can't search for blue eyes as its too common.
Question 8 - Do you have rules worked out for magic?
Whole book is to his discretion as to how it works. He doesn't have a magic system specifically. Some authors do but too like D&D for him. He went back to Tolkien when he got into the book seriously. Thinks Tolkien is still the master. What you discover when you read Tolkien with eye to magic is there is very little magic. Gandalf is wizard - wise but he doesn't whisper a spell and slaughter an entire army. He thinks fantasy needs magic as a seasoning. Too much seasoning and you can overwelm the dish. Too much magic can ruin a fantasy. Magic has to be magic - something that violates law of nature. "Unknown" - published between the two World Wars writen by Campbell - a real rationalist with a particular brand of fantasy. Campbell treated magic as science. GRR enjoyed reading them but that approach to magic and the aproach in role playing games is...just science, not magic. Magic has to be more mysterious than that. He wants less Campbell and more Lovecraft. It has to be dark stuff we can't fully comprehend. Use it sparingly so it has impact.
Question 9 - In Feast, some chapters have titles, others have names...what is reason for this?
He will let us try to figure it out.
Question 10 - How important is realism in his work?
Well he writes fantasy but he tries to give it some realism. Obviously his characters and world don't exist. But he wants it to feel like its real. He is a fan of historical fiction and wants his books to have the realism of historical fiction.
Question 11 - Re titles he considered for series or individual books and didn't use...
So far no ASOIAF titles he has come up with that haven't been used.) ASOIAF originally supposed to be a trilogy. He likes all his titles that he has come up with so far - they ring for him. That doesn't mean he won't change any if he comes up with something he likes better. He has put future titles out there so hopefully no one will use them. But he worries that someone is going to come out with a book titled D w/ D before he does. Fever Drem was River of Blood then Red Thirst then a couple of other titles. Sometimes publishers weigh in but not in his case.
HBO series is called Game of Thrones not ASOIAF. Second Season going to be Game of Thrones - Season 2. He agrees this is a better name for TV series than ASOIAF.
Question 12 - Does he know how the series is going to end?
He does know - not going to tell us.
Question 13 - Is it going to be easier to finish the books after A Dance with Dragons?
Not going to say anything is easy - just tempting fate. Especially last book. Last book has frustrated him in terms of how long it will take and when it will be done. Some fans complain he doesn't update enough re the status of the book or give predictions of when it will be done. There are actually fans who feel he finished D w/ D years ago and is witholding it from them.
Question 14 - Did the work he did previously in script writing influence this series?
Yes. He worked in television for 10 years (1985-95) and wrote for a lot of tv shows. While doing this wrote and edited Wild Card series. Both had impact on structure of series. TV is driven by commercials. There is always a fear that if each part ends on a dull note, people will turn to a different channel with the commercials start. So tv shows must be structured around cliffhangers at the end of each act before you go to commercial. That seemed to him a valid way to structure a book as well - structure your book with a series of act breaks. In his books you don't get commercials, he switches characters instead. Some readers read the books one character at a time instead of straight through. This frustrates him as it goes around his structure. The writing of dialogue was also greatly influenced by his time w/ television.
Question 15 - Will there be more Hedge Knight stories?
Yes. But ASOIAF must come first. So only in between.
Question 16 - He has a repeating motif of the buddy story in other books like Fever Dream or Hunter's Run - the characters have a bromance. If he could do a buddy story w/in ASOIAF, who would it be between?
Jon and Sam have a buddy...but this is distorted by Jon being a commander. With chapter he read from D w/ D (Jon chapter), he is trying to show how lonely it is to be a commander. He does think friendships are important. In new book some situations that might qualify as buddy stories but with a sting in the tail.
Question 17 - Whats with all the horrible things that happen to his characters?
Complex question. You write the stories that you want to read. He likes to read stories that involve him but he hates predictable stories. He likes to surprise his readers. There are many things we get out of reading fiction - but most important is vicarious experience. The best books are those where the adventures feel like they are happening to the reader. He looks back on Lord of the Rings which he first read when in junior high school - he can't remember who sat next to him or who his teachers were back then but he can remember everything that happened in the book. For him these fictional things are more real and remembered like they were his own experiences. There are techniques for achieving this - you engage the emotions of readers and make it real. You engage their senses. When he writes about feasts, he wants you to taste the food and smell it. He wants sex scenes to be arousing or frightening. With battle scenes, the reader needs to be afraid. War is filled with moments of boredom punctuated by extreme terror. Wars are part of fantasy. There is fear and then there is fear...we enjoy "fear" from riding a roller coaster and we call it "fear" - but it isn't really fear. We don't really think we are going to die when on a roller coaster. We experience a different fear when walking down a dark alley alone, thinking someone is behind us. We aren't afraid for Indiana Jones when he faces 40 Nazis - we know he will handle them okay and we will enjoy it but it doesn't really invoke our emotions. He wants the reader to sense that any of his characters could die at any moment. This needs to be established very early on in series. He doesn't want you to think anyone is safe.
Question 18 - Any characters in his books based on people he knows?
Some people. Where do we get characters from? You base them on people you know, from other books, and on yourself. Yourself is the biggest source of any character as it is the person you know best. Empathy is the most important skill for a writer - the ability to imagine yourself as someone other than yourself. He doesn't tend to do 1 to 1 things - cousin Fred is not replicated in whole. He might take some traits, however and give it to a character. It is a mixture of ingredients. Empathy and yourself most important in writing.
When he teaches a writer's workshop he gives an exercise to the students where he asks them to write an (anon) simple page about the wrost thing they have ever done. There is a certain vulnerabilty as a writer. Eventually you are going to write a story you don't want your mother to write. Its a good test for a writer. Most of us are saints and sinners and the most heroic of us have done shameful things.
Another useful exercise for a writer is to write a story from viewpoint of someone you hate. Someone who would violate all your...if you are right wing, write from viewpoint of communist. Try to make that person human. Its a good exercise for building empathy. He really tries to get inside skin of all his characters. Even Theon. Theon has his own reasons for doing appalling things so needs to be able to see why he does what he does and undestand it.
Question 19 - Re Tolkien being surprised at what happens in his books.
He has experienced that to some extent. There are 2 kinds of writers - architects and gardeners. An architect outlines everything before writing. Architect does models and drawings in advance before building gets built. A gardener digs a hole in the ground and waters it with his blood. A gardener knows a few things in advance - like what he planted. GRRM and Tolkien are more of gardeners than architects. Analogy of a journey. He is going to western Ireland after this. He has a map and a GPS and know places they will be visiting but doesn't know every twist and turn along the way. He doesn't know what hitchhickers they will meet or restaurants they will eat at. There is the unknown. His books are like that. The small details are the fun of the journey. It makes it fun and not a chore. For an architect all the fun is in the design stage.
Question 20 - Religion increasing as focus in series?
The religious revival in Westeros will continue to grow in series.
Question 21 - What books can't you stand?
He doesn't like to slag other authors. There are many books he puts down that don't capture him. As he was pulling books from his shelves for this trip, he realized he has too many unfinished books on shelves. But he prefers to concentrate on good books and authors.
Question 22 - CE Murphy asked re killing off his characters...but lost her question mid sentence and just gushed for a minute instead.
Question 23 - Anything he has kicked himself about including in book?
Too strong to say he kicked himself for including anything. He has a very complex plot. As he has struggled recently he wishes he didn't have so many balls in the air. Did he really need 7 kingdoms? 5 would be good. Or 9 free cities? Gene Wolf (editor for plant engineering magazine) was not dependent on his writing for income so he wrote an entire series of 4 books before sending it to his agent. This allowed him to go back and edit the entire series after knowing what happened. There are days he wishes he had the freedom Gene Wolf had to write like that. But then none of us would have read anything from him at this point. But he has no salary except writing so to pay his mortgage he had to publish books as he finished them and has to deal with result. But sometimes wishes he had freedom to revise.
I was lucky enough to sit next to George and have a drink at the party. I asked him how they built the Eyrie and did they use any magic. He said no magic, they just built it slowly. And as I didn't win anything in the BwB raffle at the party, I got a consolation hug from George.
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