The signing was taking place in one of the bookstores downtown Calgary in a large cafee they have upstairs there. It was cozy, but unlike Toronto, nobody had to be packed in the rows between the bookshelves.
George Martin gave an hour or hour and a half talk, answered some questions from the audience, and then signed our precious books!
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The most important thing first: Martin was touring since October, so he had not done much progress on the Dance With the Dragons. However, he is sitting on 500-600 pages taken out of the Feats, and (well, last time he was three years late) he wants to try to finish by the summer, so that the book can be published in the end of 2006. Or the beginning of 2007... Well, the main thing, he said, do not believe anything amazon tells you! On the daily updates: It would give people heart-attacks to read that he ripped apart twelve pages, so he is a week back on what had been written.
Alright, now to the rest of the stuff: he started with saying that he is disappointed in Calgary -- last time he was touring, it was with the Storm of Swords, and we had --40 C, so it greatly helped him in the writing about the Wall. Yes! We, calgarians, sure did our best there!
Then he went on remembering his very first signing tour that started in Texas -- a mistake right there -- where he had 20 or so people in Houston, 30 in Austin, and then, when he came to Dallas, why, there was a good crowd... for the signings done by a dog -- some sort of a children character, I suppose, a big stuffed toy costume and all that. He had two people.
Then he started talking about the questions he is usually asked to get it out of the way. In regards to the advice for the inspiring writers were: dont start with the epic, write short stories with the beginning, middle and end, and experiment with them; learn write about the painful things; read a lot, and of every gender and persist.
Killing characters: He writes the books that he wants to read. Meaning, the books that you know how they'll end on page 5 (told a joke about his mother who could predict very well how the next episode of I love Lucy will end in the very beginning, and how he got good at it soon too, and got bored). And the books that allow emotional attachment to the characters.
Ideally, Martin said, I want you to drop through the book cover and be in the middle of the book, on the battlefield when the characters are fighting, or in the bedroom when they step there. Obviously, its not what's going to happen, because you will still be sitting in your chair or in your bathtub -- bad idea, the books are too heavy, and you will drop them. But, the magic is to make it real.
Well, if you are polite, you will call it a work of a magician, and if you are impolite -- a fraud. (He likes this idea, actually; on the prior conference, he opened his "Why do we like to read GoHs speech with the "I am a liar."
Here, he also gave a lovely a little speech on gratuitous; people often ask why there are so much gratuitous in his books -- gratuitous heraldry, gratuitous feasting, gratuitous sex. Not many, he said, object to the gratuitous feasting though... What, would he ask do you call gratuitous? Well, they'd say, when it does not advance the plot. Martins reply is that he can hand out the 20 page summaries of the plot, but he does not believe that it what the readers want; it's not what he wants in a book -- hed read plenty which were just that: plot advancement. He want the reader to get hungry when the characters feast, and horny when they make love... or disgusted, as the case might be. Fear. He was talking about the rollercoaster movies and books -- comparing the adrenaline rush you get while perfectly safe and the "real" fear, the one that one experiences in the face of death. Talked about us watching Indiana Jones killing 424 Nazis, and knowing that not a single one is going to blow the back of Indi's head of....
While in his universe, Westeros, the world is dangerous, so if Tyrion faces 424 Nazis he is in real trouble -- first, because there are no Nazis in westerous, and second, because he is a dwarf, so facing two, or even just one guy with a big axe is a challenge for him, and who knows if he emerges alive. Thats by the way, why he kills the characters -- do it early on, and you achieve the suspense. The reader should not know what happens next, he needs to want to see what happens next.
But, he hates killing his characters. If you thought it was painfull for you to read the Red Wedding, maybe you hurled the book into the wall, well, it was more painful for him to read. The Red Wedding was the last scene written, before he had to submit the manuscript to the publisher.
Questions from the audience:
On keeping notes and writing the backstory: No, Martin does not keep outlines (did it in his TV's days and hated it). he knows where he is going, but he puts everything he has pretty much in the books. Said, he gets e-mails sometimes from Tolkien devotees, asking him about the structure and grammar of Old Valyrian. Said: "I created eight words in High Valyrian. When I need the ninth I will create it." of course, he said, most authors like to pretend that they are Tolkines, keeping manuscripts and manuscripts of the world creation. But, its not the case. Tolkien is an exception. It is not like an iceberg. It is more like a float onto which the writer piled a bit of ice. When he needs the iceberg to look taller, well, he'd add more ice.
That answers the question that is asked of him: "What if you die before finishing the books?"
Well, I dont want some f*cking hack to finish my book! You will have to hope that I live long enough.
Now, how does he keep track of all those characters? A gift, he guesses. He is bad in the real life with remembering people; he won't remember the guys who stand in line twice to sign more copies (he signs three per person per time); but he happens to remember the name of the captain of the guard in the Highgarden
Speaking of the names, someone asked about the names. Different ways, some invented, some altered. He praised Tolkien, who does not just have one wonderful name, but six of them; also mentioned Vance in that respect.
He said it still amazes him that people call their babies after their characters, but he is slightly apprehensive as well. In the "Beauty and the Beast" days, when one of the cast, called Catherine resigned, they killed her, and introduced a new character. So, one of the outraged phone calls was from a tearful, weeping woman, telling the writers that they killed her baby, because she named it after the character J He said, be careful, you like the character now, but what about in three books? (Domi: conclusion: name children after the dead characters)
He was also asked about how his book started. Pretty much with Brans chapter. The Wall is inspired by his visit to the Hadrian's wall, but since his was bigger, it had to guard the realm against someone fiercer than Scotts (not that Scotts arent fierce).
So, in the end, I happily got my autograph; I asked him to write "Don't cry when Jaime dies." but he laughed and said "it will be giving too much away" and signed: "Dont cry when _________________ dies" He left a hellishly long line there too, to fill in!
Hey, did I bore you all to death yet?