So this evening I headed up to Norwich for George R.R. Martin's Q&A and book signing for A Feast for Crows. Arrived about 2 hours before the signing, grabbed the book and a curry in the local pub then headed back to the shop. I was exceptionally annoyed that they had copies of The Art of Ice and Fire book on sale and I lacked the funds to purchase it.
Martin came on about 7pm GMT and spoke for a good 40 minutes before answering questions for about 20 minutes or so.
The main point of discussion was the reason for the five-year wait since A Storm of Swords. I'm sure most of you know this already but, briefly, he wanted a 5-year gap between ASOS and ADWD to allow the kids to grow up. Some characters, mainly the children and Daenerys, really benefited from this, but most of the other characters suffered and the book was degenerating into a flashback-fest. After about a year he decided that wasn't working, ditched everything, and started again. He also admitted that the sudden boom in the on-line community hasn't helped and he spends more time than he should answering fan mail, but he remembers when even after the success of Fevre Dream he only got a dozen or so fan letters a year and now doesn't want to appear ungratfeful by neglecting his fan letters. He also pointed out that at least two major successes - the Brotherhood Without Banners and the Hedge Knight comic adaption - came out of answering random fan emails. He also said that he'd considered appointing Parris official email-answerer, but felt that that was passing the buck. He's currently got over 1,200 emails in his inbox unread!
A new piece of information that slipped through was that he and his publishers had pretty much settled on simply splitting the book in half and publishing the two halves a month or so apart when a friend of his suggested splitting the book by POV. Martin admitted he should have seen this earlier as his editorial team did the same thing on Wild Cards VI when it overran, moving two stories set in New York away from the other six (set in Atlanta) and making them Wild Cards VII (actually it may have been the other way round). The other major advantage of this was that it allowed him to publish AFFC immediately, otherwise we'd have had to wait another year to get both books (he also said he couldn't find a good break point between the two halves). As it stands he's got 500 manuscript pages of ADWD written and plans to write another 500-600. He had a good wind of steam in finishing AFFC and hopes that with the same wind he can finish ADWD in a few months for late 2006 publication. He said he'll try not to write another 1500-page behemoth but promises nothing.
Lots of standard questions followed ("Where do you get your ideas from?" etc) with lots of answers we've had before (write short stories before you try novels, don't immediately try to write a 10-book series). A couple of nuggets slipped though: someone else asked the same question that Segovia on Wotmania asked me to ask about the level of character demise in the series to date and Martin replied that the rest of the series would unfold in a manner consistent with what would come before, i.e. no-one is safe and he'll kill anyone if the story demands it. He refused to comment on specifically if there'll be any more shocks on a par with the Red Wedding and Eddard's death. I asked about Dunk & Egg III and he confirmed most of it is written. It just needs some more polishing and the ending to be added on, which he plans to do when gets back from tour in December before leaping back into ADWD. He's still unsure about where to publish it. Someone else asked about the RPG and he confirmed that he checked and provided background information for the concordanance, encyclopedia, geography, family and history sections, but had no say in the rules. The RPG is "canon" for the moment but he reserves the right to change any details in future novels. He did unreservedly approve of the artwork for the book. I also asked about a film version of Fevre Dream and he replied that it's been optioned several times, but nothing has happened with it because no major director has taken an interest. I suggested M. Night Shymalan but he replied that the book lacks his trademark twist ending.
He confirmed that the 5-year-gap is now deader than the dodo and has fallen back on his excuse that in the Middle Ages kids had to grow up FAST, so that a 12 or 13-year-old would be much more mature than today. He wanted the books to cover a much longer span of time and blames himself for setting the first Catelyn chapter in A Game of Thrones on the same day that Robb and Jon find the direwolves in the snow. In retrospect he should have set the next chapter six months later. He likes all his characters, even 'assholes' like Theon, but admitted that Tyrion was his favourite. Sometimes he felt like showering after writing a chapter about Cersei, though, as her world-view is quite unsympathetic. He said he felt baffled about people complaining more about the "gratuitous" sex than the gratuitous feasting, gratuitous dialogue and even 'gratuitous characters going for a pee in the woods'.
Then it was off to enjoy AFFC on the train home. Needless to say, GRRM was charasmatic, friendly, courteous and answered all questions with good humour (and some of these he has to be asked every other day). He also wanted to put paid to rumours that AFFC was late because he'd spent all his time in his hot-tub with hot babes!
And he gave a special shout out to Lodengarl and all the Brotherhood Without Banners. He said it was a shame I missed Worldcon (yeah, cheers for that, it was before I joined up) as he'd thoroughly enjoyed it and looked forward to meeting up with you all next time.
No he definitely said he had most of it [the third Dunk & Egg story] done, he just needs to finish it off in December when he gets home after the signing tour, before he leaps into the second half of ADWD.