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.
I arrived Friday night, and after registering, went straight to George's panel on Writing the Fantasy Trilogy. GRRM, together with Wen Spencer and Juliet McKenna, all agreed that the best advice they could give is "don't do it." GRRM thinks it's a terrible idea for new writers to start out with novels in the first place. They should start with short stories. This allows them to learn their craft and build their names. Also, there are artistic and commercial reasons to write short stories first. If you write a bad novel, everyone will have a bad opinion of your work and you will have wasted a year working on something not worthwhile. On the other hand, if you write a bad short story, you don't feel so guilty tossing it out. He suggests spending 4 or 5 years writing a series of stories. Then, people will be excited about your novel.
GRRM also thinks the trilogy is somewhat false as a form of fantasy. No one actually writes a trilogy -- they just write a very long story that happens to be divided up. He pointed out that Tolkien, the genesis of the fantasy trilogy, did not set out to write one. Tolkien instead divided his work into 6 books. GRRM writes a series because one volume would be "obscene" and take up an entire shelf in the bookstore. Apparently, publishers don't like to have their books take up too much shelf space. GRRM also observed that fantasy stories tend to be longer because the author has to explain the world to the reader. Mainstream stories can work off people's existing knowledge.
GRRM also stated that he does not do any worldbuilding before he starts writing. He has an idea of the plot in "broad strokes" and tends to build the world as the story progresses. He wrote a few chapters and figured, "Hmm. I had better draw a map." The downside of this is that the author has to stick to what he wrote before despite some good ideas he may have later. GRRM envies Tolkien because he took so long to write his story, he could go back and change things. At some point, according to GRRM, the author has to stop going back and changing his earlier work -- unless it's Stephen King.
Wen Spencer brought up the way GRRM likes to kill off characters. GRRM said it's much easier to kill off characters when you have so many. He's always believed in killing characters because it makes the story more exciting. He wants the reader to be afraid to turn the page - to feel as the characters feel - that sense of danger. He does it intentionally. As for those readers who don't like that, GRRM says he doesn't write comfort fiction. You have to write what you want to read.
According to GRRM, in writing fantasy, you have to go back to Tolkien and the bittersweet ending of the scouring of the shire. Although when he was younger, he thought that part was extra, the bitterness stayed with him and he realized that it was the point of the story.
With regard to the length of ASoIF, GRRM had 150 pages plus the outline before he even sold the books. As he began writing, the story just grew and grew from 3 to 4 to 6 books.
Responding to the question: "Can you kill of the main character from the prior 5 books in book 6?" GRRM said yes, you can do anything you want if you make it work. They killed off the main character in "Psycho" and it worked.
Responding to a question, GRRM said he does not have a "first reader." He sometimes has other writers read sections, but ultimately you have to trust yourself. Ultimately it's your book.
Phew! Well, after that we took the long route to the Korean buffet, and later George and Parris met us in the Sheraton's bar. They chatted with us until 4:00 a.m.!
Parris decided we should have a party, and I volunteered my room. We somehow planned in in 15 minutes and within the hour, we had a party ready to go. Unfortunately, I didn't have a party room, so we got busted by the hotel at 10:00 p.m. Parris jumped in and saved the party for us by renting out a room on the party floor. I couldn't believe that it took only 5 minutes to get 50 people and ALL the party stuff out of my room. Everyone was great. The Drabel brothers were there. Such handsome young men! And so successful! They gave us all the new edition of the Hedge Knight. Ernst came mighty close to stealing Stegos book of short stories to make into another comic book.
As usual, our party was the hit of Boskone.
[Note: The following report explains the discrepancy in the total number of POVs, which GRRM has given as 19. 9 characters are carried over from ASoS and 8 new POVs have been announced so far. It appears that Sansa's chapters count as two POVs.]
Alayne is that missing POV.
Parris told us that George wants to write a trilogy about one of the Targaryen Kings.
She did not hesitate to inform him that he needed to finish this series first or might face a riot. So I guess this is a far-future event.
GRRM most assuredly stated the book covered more like FIVE months (not four) than five years. As drunk as I have been in the past few hours, I am certain of this.
The Dabel Bros, (Ernst, Les, and later on Pascal) were there. Seems they were ironing out a deal to adapt 'The Sworn Sword' into comic book form.
The Hedge Knight TPB is being released in a second edition with a new cover by Boris Vallejo and additional art by AMOK. Ernst and Les gave me a copy of this as of yet unreleased book. They also gave one to a few other fans. (Babyraven, Frisco, Banipal, and a new fan that came from NY to see George) The Dabels are really great guys...... they always have been. I went to High School with Ernst, and he is one of the genuinely good guys out there.
The unofficial BwB party was the hit of the convention on Saturday night. We made you all proud. (despite being kicked out of our first site for not being on the 'party floor.') We quickly picked up and moved to a new location and the party did not skip a beat. It was not to the scale of a Worldcon party, but it was QUITE large for a regional con. Parris, George, an the Dabels were there all night and were still partying when we made an exit at approximately 2:30am. Living on 'Worldconesque' amounts of sleep.
It's really really great to spend time with BwB members again. Babs, Yags, Banipal, Frisco, Arend, and of course Lady Stego, are amazing people to spend time with. I suck, but they more than made up for me. :P
From what I gather, AFFC is not finished yet, but George said what I stated he said about this summer.I can only asume he's on the verge of completion. He did make reference in the reading to the fact that he HAS to finish sooon. (Publishers being anxious and such.)
GRRM is here at Boskone again this year. He had an hour reading which I attended. I was at a previous reading so I didn't get to the room early. People usually line up early to get into his readings even though they are held in one of the larger rooms for a reading.
He had started on time, so I came in after he had already begun reading. I don't know if it was a 'new' Feast of Crows chapter, or a previous one that he was re-reading. He stated at Worldcon that he would only do one more reading with new material, but who knows if he kept to that or not. Anyway it was a Sansa chapter. It was good. He read for about 40 minutes and then answered questions and spoke about the situation.
He is still working on the book, though close to the end. He will post it as soon as it is done on his web site. It is only real when you see it there, not what publishers, or booksellers say. He has over a 1000 pages written, and possibly 1300 or is thinking he will end at 1300 -- not sure which, he was rather unclear. He said he had enough to send it in to be published, but he didn't want to end it with: To Be Continued. He wants the book to be something he can be proud of, and not just acceptable for publication. He is struggling with the ending of the book now. He also said he had most of the parts done, but was now trying to string it together into a complete whole that worked.
He knows where he wants the series to end, but he does not have a mapped out route of how to get there. He said sometimes he takes the interstate, and sometimes he takes a small scenic road, and finds really interesting stuff along the side of the road, and sometimes he breaks down. He then said that at one time he was talking about a 5 year gap between the end of the previous book and the start of this one. He announced that at cons and in interviews and so felt he had to keep to it even when it wasn't working for some characters - they just had too much that would have had to happen in the past and be explained through flashback. So he didn't change but kept fighting to make it happen. He finally realized he had to let it go, and throw out a lot of writing he did, and start over. He wants the 5 year gap because he wants the kids to grow up, but some of the adults have too much going on for that to work. He now thinks he needs to somehow put the characters on different time-lines, so that those who are kids can grow up, and he can still detail the adults activity. He said he has an idea how to do it, but since he felt trapped the last time he said what he was going to do, he wouldn't talk about the specifics.
He thinks there are going to be 6 books in the series, but he laughed and said that of the five year gap AFfC has only covered 4 months so far. Others have mentioned 7 or 8. He has a definite end to the series and there will be the number of books needed to get the story there. Then he talked about the next book which is tentatively called Dances With Dragons . It was supposed to be #2, then #3, then #4, and now #5. He said no matter how much he writes it recedes into the future.
He said even though he has started #5 it is not a case where it will come out 6 months after AFfC. Some of what was written is based on AFfC having the 5 year gap, so it will have to be redone.
He said the publishers have releases for all their books planned out for the year, and once you miss your slot even if only by a few weeks it may take months or another year for the next slot to come around - so he has no idea how soon AFfC will be out once he turns it in. He did say that he expects the UK version to come out first because their market is so small they have made an effort to push new US books through very fast and beat US publication -- they are trying to steal the US readers who are unwilling to wait. Simultaneous publication robs them of this edge, so they will push it out first.
He also mentioned that part of the reason for the delay was the expansion of POV characters in AFfC. He said in book one it was 8, in book two 9, and in book three 10. AFfC has 19 POV characters. He said it was due to him bringing in Dorn and the Northern Isles. He also said he needs to kill some characters off. He wouldn't say who. His favorite is Tyrion, but his is the last chapter he is having trouble finishing. He thinks it might split into 2 chapters. Bran is the character he likes least. Not because of the character, but because it is very hard for him to write from the perspective of a 7 year old, and then a crippled 7 year old. He also says the temptation when writing fantasy is to use magic to cure him, but he doesn't see that happening.
The other reasons for the delay is that he has been sucked into doing things associated with the books. He talked about the art, games, audio books, figurines and the graphic novels. He thought it would just be giving an ok, and then he is involved in picking artists, approving text. All things he enjoys but which also reduce his writing time. He is also going to be meeting with the people who did the Graphic Novel of The Hedge Knight and there may be more Duncan and the Egg Graphic Novels. He has had a few nibbles from Hollywood on ASoIaF, but he doesn't think they will be able to make a movie of the books unless they wait until the series is done and then find the central character - whittle the rest down to about 4 and tell a limited story from the POV of 4 or 5 characters.
He said in the last book (which I haven't read yet) the Red Wedding was the toughest to write out of all the writing he has done over the years. He wrote up to it, and the repercussions of it, but then had to go back and actually write it.
One of the fans asked how he was dealing with the danger that when authors got very big and were no longer edited that they produced less than wonderful work. The guy tapped dance around the question but GRRM knew what he was talking about. He said it was always a danger, and no writer likes to be edited, but he had editors he trusted, and first readers who gave him good feedback. He also takes his stuff to workshops and listens to the suggestions and criticisms. He said you have to worry about becoming self-indulgent and turning out crap. The only thing to do is try to listen to others, even though what you write and keep is really up to the writer, and be aware of the possibility. He said he thought the fans would tell him right away if that happened, and then joked that some thought it already had.
He attends about 6 cons or events a year. If he did any more he would have no time for writing. He knows he could get more done if he attended less, but he is unwilling to do so. He enjoys the fan contact and the perks of visiting different places around the world that now come with his success. What he is doing is booking events years ahead so he can keep to 6 per year and still not have to turn things down. He just agreed to do a writer's workshop in a chateau in the Dordogne in 2008.
So that is what I remember, if there are any errors it is because I didn't remember correctly.
Most of you will chalk this up for a gag or joke or something of that nature. I assure you that it is not. This is the forum with the most traffic, so I decided to post it here first.
Due to the recent change in art for AFFC shown on Amazon.com, one of my first questions for George at Boksone (on the way to a hobby store to look at toy Knights) was about the new cover art. He stated that it was an attempt to bring new readers into the fold, much like the original Game of Thrones cover.
He also stated that all of he other books would be rereleased with that type of cover, including Hardcover editions. (Big news for collectors)
He ALSO stated, quite definitively, that 'A Feast For Crows' would be released this summer.
This wasn't an estimate. this wasn't 'Don't even ask.' This was, AFFC will be coming out in the summer.
The Westeros network consists of several different sites, including a forum and a wiki, for all your A Song of Ice and Fire needs.