I managed to make it to this signing, so a quick report.
It was interesting to meet GRRM in the flesh and hear him talk. He looks just like his photos and is obviously smart and very widely read (no surprise there). There were about 40 - 50 people present, with a wide mixture of types, though mostly male.
GRRM talked for about 30 minutes and answered questions for another 15 before the signing started. A lot of people had questions, and I didn't get a chance to ask mine. He didn't say anything new, but I gleaned a few titbits:
- He wasted a lot of time trying to make the 5 year gap work, mostly because he had told so many people there was going to be one, and felt that he had to deliver. Otherwise AFfC would have come out significantly earlier.
- He spent some time talking about his theory that, in most fantasy, the fantasy world itself is a major character.
- He quoted Kipling, which amused me for some reason.
- When saying he would not answer questions about the plot he said "So don't ask me who Jon's [slight pause] mother is." I definitely picked up a little subtext "Yes I know there are theories that Ned is not Jon's father, but I am not going to put the idea into the head of anyone who has not already heard of them."
- When dealing with the "who is your favourite character" question he said "Tyrion has a personality most similar to my own. [Slight pause and then quickly] But I haven't killed my father though". It felt like he was saying that as a sudden afterthought, so unless he was being very devious indeed, it seems that Tyrion is indeed Tywin's son. (I may be biased though, as I have always disliked the idea of A+J=Tyrion.)
The Kipling quote was the one that goes something like:
There are nine and ninety ways
Of writing tribal lays
And every single one of them is right
Just a quick note. Nice turn out for George. Quite a few BwB people, and a few new-ish "members", people who knew about the boards and the BwB even if they haven't posted here much. It was just a signing, but after George was finished we went for dinner at Mr Singh's with the man himself and Rebecca (his minder on the tour). Got a chance to ask a couple of questions and take some pictures.
Q: Why were the older maps used for the UK editions?
A: The UK editions follow the US editions in this regard, and the decision was made to go with the older maps for the US editions. Not sure why.
Q: Are the clutch of eggs Illyrio gave to Dany the same as the clutch Quickfinger tried to steal (ref: Sworn Sword). i.e. Are they originally Targaryen eggs?
Q: Can the Faceless Men absorb the memories and personalitites of the peole they impersonate, or are they reliant on observation and mimicry?
A: The same to both questions.....keep reading :p
... Oh, one thing to mention, it was confirmed that GRRM expects ADwD to extend some time beyond the end of AFfC.
On the timeframe for ADwD, I believe the exact quote was that it may well extend to a few months beyond the end of AFFC, depending on how the writing pans out.
When I saw George yesterday at the Colchester signing, he said that the third Dunk and Egg story is nearly finished. He didn't say how/when it is going to be published though...
Someone asked him what if he died. We're all "shit outta luck" if that happens, apparently. I think he said the next one will hopefully be done by the end of next year, after splitting it there was half of it written with half of it left to do. He says it should be seven books now, but jokes that it might be eight or even more depending on what happens, he's not sure now, but seven is what he hopes. He has the whole storyline done already in "broad strokes", but compares writing them out as being like going on a long road journey. You have the map and know where you're going, but don't know what'll pop up behind each turn or if there'll be a nice place to eat or diverting attraction on the way. Most of all, he states firmly that he writes the books he wants to write, and if that means he has to shunt back the release dates or write more of them, well, that's what's going to happen.
He now says he can't imagine why he ever thought the five-year story gap would have ever worked, most of the problems it caused were with the adult characters who wouldn't have just stopped everything for those years meaning there'd have to be lots of "Hey, remember that thing we did four and a half years ago?" style flashbacks. While discussing how he writes his female characters, he also mentioned that splitting the books as he did this time meant we didn't get the parallel between how Danaerys and Cersei both approach the task of leadership, which is a bit of a shame.
He has another Dunk and Egg story done (yaaay) and continues to stick to writing one between each book, with them all being collected into another book someday once Ice and Fire is done. Someone asked him if he had a meticulous filing system for all the background info and he replied he wished he had. He thought it'd be easy to just keep everything in his head like with his other books to begin with, but these days he refers to http://www.westeros.org when he needs to check something.
When I got my book done, I complimented him on the Lovecraftiness of certain bits of Feast, and we had a little "Man, Lovecraft eh?" exchange. So yeah, I shot the shit with George R. R. Martin about Lovecraft. I forgot to ask him if he's played Thief or Mount & Blade, but someone I was chatting to there mentioned that he's a fan of gaming and computer games, and has to be careful he doesn't spend too much time playing them when he's writing his books.
Anyway, awesome to hear him speak, he's got a really humourous, wry style and he has a great awareness of things like how he's viewed, being a fantasy series fan and whatnot. Like, he has a rule that he'll sign any number of books you bring him (some people had bags with them with their collections, for instance), but only 3 at a time before you have to join the back of the queue again to get the next ones done, so you don't hold everyone up but can still get everything you want signed, which is very fair and even-handed all round. Very warm, witty and humble to listen to, and a damn nice guy. It was awesome to meet him, I really can't say enough good things about him.
There must have been up to 120 people there. GRRM said that it was always a worry of his when visiting a place for the first time that there might not be many people who turn up for the signing. He then recounted a story about the smallest crowd he had for a signing. Ray Bradbury was signing at a major sci-fi con in one town and in a nearby town GRRM was signing AGOT at a bookstore. The bookstore had a caf and when he arrived there were two couples drinking coffee. No-one else had arrived for the allotted start time and they waited a bit longer. When still no-one else had arrived the bookstore manager announced that the signing would start and the two couples left the caf and bookstore. So the smallest crowd he has signed for is -4.
e talked about the series, how it originated and the delay with Feast. The next book should be published next year and the series should run to 7 books although there are no guarantees.
The talk lasted about 20 mins and was followed by a Q&A which lasted for at least 45 mins. There were several questions asked (must have been approx 20). The first one was about the possibility of a 3rd Dunk & Egg story. GRRM said he liked to write the stories in between writing the books and that he had started the 3rd one.
When asked about how he writes the series, GRRM responded by comparing it to a journey. He knew the start, knew the landmarks, and had a good idea of the destination. However, he often notices interesting places and buildings while on the journey and feels obliged to explore them. Another questioner furthered the analogy by asking if he had come across any dead ends. GRRM replied that the now well-known 5 year character gap between the 3rd and 4th books had caused many problems. He spent about 6 months trying to make it work.
Asked if he knew the ending, he replied that it would be bitter-sweet. He expanded on this by talking about the scouring of the Shire. When he first read LOTR at the age of 12, he didn't understand the ending. However, as a more mature reader he came to appreciate that triumph is always bought at a cost.
He was asked to comment about his different writing styles between aSoIaF and Fevre Dream. For the latter, he read several novels, such as those by Mark Twain, from the period to understand the syntax and words. For aSoIaF, he replied that it is a fine line to draw between writing in modern, understandable prose and using archaic words. The best way is to compromise by using modern prose, but omitting all pop culture references, and occasionally using archaic words/phrases. He compared it to adding a bit of salt to soup to enhance the flavour. When writing AGOT he had a lot of characters who used the word "mayhaps". His editor did not like the use of the word because he feared a "forsooth" would follow shortly. GRRM compromised by keeping the use of quot;mayhapsquot; for older characters, such as Aemon, but replaced it with "perhaps" and "maybe" for younger ones like Bran.
GRRM was complimented on how well he had captured family dynamics and the questioner wished to know if GRRM had any siblings. GRRM replied that he has 2 sisters and has slept with neither of them. The reply garnered a lot of laughter and some applause.
Incidentally, it must have been bell-ringing practice night as the bells were being rung for the majority of the talk and Q&A. At one point, GRRM paused, looked out the window and wondered for whom the bells tolls and that hopefully it wasnt for him.
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.
George talked for about 30-40 minutes on writing with advice to any literary hopefuls in the 100+ strong audience. He led us through his early writing experiences, sending in short stories for sci-fi mags, rejections, the beauty of having his name knows as a short story writer before his first novel, and his advice "not to start too big" to aspiring novelists.
Two interesting strands that register in my mind was that many people write to him offering stories about characters set in the Westeros world, to which he replies, "that's my world- find your own".
Secondly that in his opinion you know you are a writer if you have stories pouring out of your head which you have to get down. Related to this, he talked about his early college days writing and selling short stories to friends and college mags etc.
I asked if he kept a filing or reference system for this ever widening and complicated world. He replied that he has a few charts and tables but if he gets stuck he accesses the Icelandic website (I think I have this right) of the chap who has completed all the chapter synopsis/details).....to which gales of laughter ensued.
I also asked if he purposefully set out to write about characters whom society may brand or label as different -Jon Snow as a bastard, a cripple, Hodor, etc to which I received an "it's more interesting to write for different types of people"
Other questions as far as a hazy memory, no notebook and 3 days normal living have eroded, were how does he write women so well unlike Jordan (gales of laughter) to which one lady wit replied to the questioner, "how do you know he does?" Martin acknowledge he was not a woman, or a dwarf, and therefore had to write with empathy for a character. He said he had struggled with Sansa's first period chapter/scene and had shown others, sorry I mean other people who had read it/advised him accordingly.
When asked about the easiest character to write for, he replied Tyrion ( Yes he pronounced it the same way I do in my mind ***) and the hardest...Bran!!
(ASIDE: Somehow you can tell he enjoys Tyrion- his chapters for me seem more fluid than others. But then again I'm only 5 foot 3 so perhaps I enjoy these because I am nearer his ground level than most)
The usual 5 year gap reared its head. He joked that at a signing 5 years ago he predicted then that he had to sort the fiction 5 year gap out but nobody expected a real 5 year gap between books.
Some asked if he enjoyed killing off characters- yes and no and mentioned about the rainy scene near a certain castle (trying not to give a spoiler) being difficult to write..he often had to leave it because he found it so upsetting. Damn - no one asked him why? I personally would love to know - after all he seems to kill off characters a lot. He continued along this theme talking about how much sci-fi/fiction does not ring true as one hero kills 20 odd Nazis likening some superficial fiction heroes akin to Indiana Jones. He said he would find it difficult to combat one Nazi and that writers must be real to the characters and the situations the author puts them in.
One chap asked about the Others, and George said there was more to come but would not expand upon this.
To summarise, a good evening. Hardly any females. Age range quite well spread. Quite humerous friendly bloke is Mr George. He talked a lot about Tolkein and related how in his maturity he could understand the genius of Tolkein ending with a bitter sweet "Scouring of the Shire" to which he thinks he will probably aspire (bittersweet, not scouring you understand). Yes he has made mistakes or made literary decisions in the series which on hindsight he would have corrected or re-written.
[Note: The following link is a archive of all back issues of Deep Magic, made available following its closure (see here for more information, and includes issue #41 (October 2005 in the archive). The precise date, beyond October 2005, is unknown.]