I just got home from a GRRM book signing at a Kansas City Brentano's and had a great time. He signed for about 45 minutes, read a Samwell Tarly chapter, and answered several questions. About 40 people were there. He was in town for an area SF convention.
I'll try to relate what I remember, and if I miss anything I apologize, because I didn't write any of this down until after I left. And if I repeat anything from the post two down, well, this is first-hand info.
1) Will FfC and aDwD cover the five-year span that you initially planned to skip?
He said the five-year hiatus is as dead as his plan to finish the series in a trilogy. While he would like to skip ahead to age the children (esp. Bran and Arya), he feels the back-story is too interesting and important. He needs to focus on their development. While he would like to find a time to skip ahead 6 months in the story, it's unlikely.
2. When/how do you decide a new character point-of-view is necessary?
He compared this to LotR. You get a full page map of the Shire. You think it's big, because it takes up so much space, but you realize it's a small part of a big world. He started out with a few PoV and gradually expanded to include more, just as the hobbits in LotR learned there was more to the world than the Shire. He has reached a maximum number of PoV and feels that he needs to narrow the focus, and start eliminating them, which he says, we know he can do by killing off people.
He introduces a PoV to give a different perspective, and also when a character's story needs to be told.
3. Will we see Sandor again, especially in replacing Sansa's lost wolf?
Yes, we will see Sandor (in the next book I think he said) and Gregor. After that, he said he can't comment on the rest...
His Rretrospective is still available, and he says the publisher will consider a reprint when the initial copies sell through. It is too big to publish in paperback format.
Some of the other questions...
Seven books, not six. (Looks like Parris was right)
Book four will be 1100 pages, the size of GoT. As such, he has the 500 pages of book five already written.
He does not do outlines before writing the books, but he will take notes. He feels like the outlines boggle him down. He may write a chapter where, when it ends, he paints himself into a corner, and may back-track as a result.
He discussed RPGs, card games, miniatures. He is not a game designer and has no plans to help develop the games, even though he does like to have input.
He doesn't feel that it's fair to call his work gratuitous. He wants the reader to live vicariously though his books (a function of fantasy writing), feel the characters emotions. If a character is at a feast, he wants the reader to smell the food, experience Dany's discomfort at being served an unappetizing dish. The same with the sex scenes-he wants his readers to feel like they are there.
This is why he kills off his characters. He wants the suspense to be real. When the 'hero' is in a risky situation, you really don't know if he'll survive, whereas in a typical fantasy, you just wonder what will happen to the hero next, because he's never in any real danger anyway.
He has two editors: one in the UK and one in the US. The entire book is in their and the copy-editors hands. He seemed somewhat worried that with the book being published this fall (sep/oct) that they would have enough time to proof-read. He would prefer more time, but if he had finished in 2002, as expected, they would have had plenty of time to edit
What he intended to be one book will be split into two parts: aFfC and aDwD. The book was too long, longer than SoS, which was the upper-limit in size as far as his publishers were concerned.
Crows will deal with Kings Landing area, Lannisters, and Dorne, the South. The Samwell chapter should be the only one from the North.
Dragons will deal with Daenerys and the North. He decided to split by character, rather than in the middle of the story, as he wanted a complete book, rather than FfC part I and II.
We will hear snippets about Lyanna Stark.
He knows more about his created world than the real world
And for you midwesterners, he said the book signing he did in St. Louis for GoT was the worst he ever had, because no one showed up. I meant to ask him more detail but forgot.
I got four books signed, GoT, CoK, SoS, and Fevre Dream. He allowed people to go through the line multiple times if they had more than three books.
I had my picture taken with him and will post it in my profile once the film is developed and coverted to cd.
He was super nice, looked you in the eye when answering questions, answered with much detail, very polite. He was very apologetic about the book taking so long, but as much as he tours, and as much as he does for the fans, he has good reason. He's very personable and I recommend meeting him if you have the chance.