Whoa. I haven't posted here in a very long time. I also happened to be at To Be Continued, attended the various panels that George was at, and also got to attend the Koffeklatche on Sunday (which was pretty cool, there were only five or six of us there).
George was very gracious. He used to live in the town that my husband and I currently live in, (Dubuque, IA) so we updated him about some of his favorite old haunts. He said he once helped organize a science fiction convention here.
He told me that Feast for Crows would certainly be out THIS YEAR. He said around November, but could not be sure, it depended on how quickly he got the last chapter out. This was not in a panel, it was when we were getting our books signed by him on Friday when we ran into him in the dealers' room.
The panel was pretty much as described. I had asked the Harrenhal question--it was more to find out if there would be more backstory about the Grand Tourney at Harrenhal. George said there would be, a lot happened at that time that was important.
At the koffeklatche, George said the two favorite characters [of readers] were Tyrion and Arya. The least favorites were Sansa and Catelyn. (This annoyed me to no end, as Sansa is my personal favorite.)
When asked about the Clegane's mother ("Where the heck was she when Gregor was dipping Sandor's face in a brazier?", one lady wanted to know), he said that he didn't know. Probably dead by that time.
Sandor actually admired knights as a child, but was greatly disillusioned when his brute brother was actually knighted, by Rhaegar, no less. Hence his bitterness. He really hates Gregor.
Gregor is extremely dim.
I asked about the previous day's panel, when George had mentioned intentional mistakes. Was Sansa's memory of the Hound kissing her when he actually had not an intentional mistake? Why would she think that? He said it was in fact intentional, but he would not tell us why. I said he was mean, and he laughed at me.
I also asked if Sandor would be in the upcoming book. He pleaded the fifth. I said he was mean, and he laughed at me.
We talked a bit about the children and their wolves. I mentioned Sansa just having a poor old crippled dog (the one in the Aerie) because she lost her wolf. He got a queer smile about his lips when I said that and nodded. Make of that what you will.
There will be more tourneys, in the Dunk and Egg books. But first he wants to finish the ASOIAF series.
Westeros is big, about the size of South America. He deliberately does not make a map to scale because he doesn't want people writing saying "Hey, it's impossible for so-and-so to go so far in such-and-such a time." The continent is even larger.
He does not include a world map because he wants his readers to see the world through the characters' eyes. In medieval times, world maps as we know them did not exist. There would be arrows "To Cathay" "Here Be Dragons" and that sort of thing.
That being said, Dany will be presented with a map of the world from a fellow whose name I cannot remember because the pronunciation was very odd indeed.
There was some talk about Eddard Stark and why he made the mistakes he did. People who are honorable cannot always see the intentions of people who are dishonorable.
When asked, he admitted that yes, it is very difficult for him to brutally kill off these characters that he has written for so long. Hence his avoidance in writing the Red Wedding until the very last.
There was some talk about the Targaryen bloodline and how it worked when there weren't enough siblings to marry. Uncle might marry niece or aunt, nephew. There were also cousins in that family at one time. But when Rhaegar was born, the bloodline had decreased and there was no one available for him to marry. The problem Steffon (sp?) Baratheon faced when looking for Valyrian blood was not that there wasn't any left, but that he couldn't find any appropriate females of noble-enough birth. Then, of course, he and his lady died on the way back, a tragedy for Stannis and Renly. Rhaegar ended up marrying Elia of Dorne, another tragedy.