While driving in, there was unnaturally bad traffic for the couple of miles from the freeway to the campus area. We're talking worse than rush hour bad traffic. We're talking as bad as a UM home football game traffic. We're talking bumper to bumper here. My husband was teasing me and saying that all of these people were heading to Borders for the Martin reading. As we got closer to the bookstore, and it became clear that everyone was heading to the Martin signing, it wasn't funny any more.
At Borders they gave out colored tickets depending on what time you arrived. There were hundreds and hundreds of people there. I have no idea how many hundreds, as so many people were everywhere, not only in the open area where they had set up chairs for the reading (the chairs were all filled and so was the standing space) but all of the shelving units in that part of the store, including those behind the podium, were all filled with people. I stood behind a shelving unit filled with dvd's and peeked over the top to be able to see GRRM. Pretty much the whole second floor of a building that takes up most of a city block was filled with people.
Martin was very surprised to see so many people. He was surprised that he was completely encircled. "There are so many of you and you are all around me!" His talk was warm and funny. He gestures a lot with his hands. He talked about previous trips to Ann Arbor when he was a college student at Northwestern and he would come over for football games. He talked about when he started out as a writer he couldn't pay his bills on what he made with his pen, so he also had a job running chess tournaments, and Ann Arbor was one of his regular stops.
In reaction to the large crowd, he told a funny story about how the smallest crowd he ever had at a signing was -4 (that's right; negative four) in downtown St. Louis for A Game of Thrones.
He spoke of how he thinks of A Song of Ice and Fire as a symphony with the individual books as the movements and the characters as the instruments.
He spoke of the notorious originally planned "five year gap" and why he had to scrap it, and restart the book, and how that delayed the book. He spoke of why the book had to be split into two. If anyone is interested, ask, and I will share his answers. He said that he hopes to be back in Ann Arbor this time next year to do a signing for A Dance with Dragons, and that he hopes to be done with the series in about six years and a total of seven books (four of the seven are now out and he is well on his way with the fifth), but he admitted it might take more than six years. He would like to write some science fiction and horror again someday, after he finishes this series.
He took questions from the audience.
He does not see them ever being able to make a movie, though he said he would consider it for a large dumptruck filled with money (that was a joke). He pointed out that LOTR in its entirety is shorter than ASOS alone. If LOTR took three long movies to film, it would take more and longer movies for ASOIAF. He says that a miniseries is also unlikely, due to the length of the material, as these days many miniseries are only four hours long.
He loves all of his characters, including the bad guys, but his favorite character to write is Tyrion, as he is witty and active and emotionally tortured. His least favorite to write is Bran, as he is the youngest so you have to look at every word to see if an eight year old would know it and every situation to try to see it as an eight year old would understand it, he is crippled and therefore more reactive than active, and his chapters have the most magic thus far. Martin compared magic in fantasy novels to anchovies on pizza. A little adds flavor and spice, too much can overwhelm it.
When he writes he will write chunks for one character at a time. Perhaps he will write 2-3 Jon chapters, then will find something he has to write in another character's POV to go with what he just wrote for Jon, so then he will work on a couple of that character's chapters. And when he puts them together in the books, he will often change their order several times before he finds the optimum order, which will make him do minor rewrites to fit them in together just right.
Someone asked why the seasons are so messed up. Martin said he couldn't give an answer necause that would be telling! He did say that there would eventually be an answer in one of the books, and the answer would be a fantasy (as opposed to a science fiction/science based) answer.
He has a good chunk (I seem to remember over 500 pages) done in A Dance with Dragons and he has part of a third Dunk & Egg novella also finished.
Then came the two hour wait (I was in the middle color of the five colors used; some people had a considerably longer wait) to get my copy autographed. People had come from all over the place to get to this signing. It was interesting talking to them in line. It was also torture, as the line snaked through the music section, and I saw many jazz and classical CD's I would have liked to have looked at more closely. When I finally got up to the table, Martin was very warm and friendly and happy. I am a very shy person but he put me to ease right away.