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.