The Citadel

The Archive of 'A Song of Ice and Fire' Lore

So Spake Martin

Octocon Q&A

Question 1 - How can I be an extra?

He doesn't know. He's suggested to HBO that they sell the rights to be an extra.

(Someone brought up information about Extras Northern Ireland about being an extra.)

Currently looking for swarthy men who can ride horses. (He didn't think the person asking would meet the requirements for swarthy.) He hears they are looking for a certified butcher. Then you would have a chance.

Question 2 - When will the show appear on tv?

He doesn't know. Next year some time. Earliest would be March or April or May...maybe next fall if HBO decides to delay it. He thinks most likely next spring.

Question 3 - Does he have a walk on part on the show?

We will have to watch and see. Maybe.

Okay now on to the reading...I'll try to post the Q&As as they are asked when we get to them in a while...

I apologize in advance for any errors but I'm typing on a tiny computer on my lap with no spellcheck.

Question 4 - Where do you come up with all the character names?

He makes them up. Names are sometimes difficult and he struggles to find the right name for a that sounds right. As a young writer when you are learning how to write - other writers tell you the rules - like you should never have 2 characters with names that start with the same letter. He followed this for years. You don't want Edward and Edmund in the same story. Its a great rule but with ASOIAF, more than 26 characters so he would run out of letters. So he drew inspiration from English history where everyone is named Edward or Henry with a Richard here and there. You differentiate the way historians do. The Percy family (Northumberland) loves the name Henry but they have nicknames for each title holder like Hotspur. He wanted that sense of realism with his names. So Brandon occurs frequently. Tries to make each family with naming patterns that are still a little different. But with to name them? When the name is right, you feel it is right and when you don't have that feel you keep casting about for them. Tolkien had a gift for names. He not a linguist or Oxford don so can't hope to duplicate this. Jack Vance great with names.

Question 5 - As you are writing, how much of your day is consumed with the series?

It varies day to day. He does stop thinking about it when in the middle of other things. In the fall, he takes Sundays off from work due to American football games but works the other 6 days. The rest of the year he works 7 days a week. This doesn't mean he is writing that whole time. As a writer he has many obligations - correspondence, covers to approve, contracts to sign, 3-4 agents to deal with, movie deals - this all infringes on writing time. But ASOIAF is always there in his mind. Sometimes he gets into grooves where writing is going well and he will devote more time to it. On such days, starts work in the morning and vanishes into the word and when he stops and looks up it is dark outside. These are great days. When this happens it can last for several weeks and he will get lots of writing done. But then everything else is neglected and publishers will start calling with demands and he has to switch his attention to them. He wishes there were 3 of him or twice as many hours in a day.

Question 6 - How much development of story before he starts writing a book?

When he began writing, nothing in advance. He barely knew who the characters were. Its an ongoing process and it does get complicated. He has all these fans which is great - but they are sons of bitches and will point out mistakes.

Question 7 - Jim Butcher relies on fans to keep the details. Do your fans help you with the details?

He has his own notes. He has uber fan - Ran - when he is doubtful about something he runs it past re eye colors. Eye color...he regrets giving anyone colored eyes. Some stuff you can kind of look up - thank god for search and replace to see every mention of a certain character - but can't search for blue eyes as its too common.

Question 8 - Do you have rules worked out for magic?

Whole book is to his discretion as to how it works. He doesn't have a magic system specifically. Some authors do but too like D&D for him. He went back to Tolkien when he got into the book seriously. Thinks Tolkien is still the master. What you discover when you read Tolkien with eye to magic is there is very little magic. Gandalf is wizard - wise but he doesn't whisper a spell and slaughter an entire army. He thinks fantasy needs magic as a seasoning. Too much seasoning and you can overwelm the dish. Too much magic can ruin a fantasy. Magic has to be magic - something that violates law of nature. "Unknown" - published between the two World Wars writen by Campbell - a real rationalist with a particular brand of fantasy. Campbell treated magic as science. GRR enjoyed reading them but that approach to magic and the aproach in role playing games is...just science, not magic. Magic has to be more mysterious than that. He wants less Campbell and more Lovecraft. It has to be dark stuff we can't fully comprehend. Use it sparingly so it has impact.

Question 9 - In Feast, some chapters have titles, others have names...what is reason for this?

He will let us try to figure it out.

Question 10 - How important is realism in his work?

Well he writes fantasy but he tries to give it some realism. Obviously his characters and world don't exist. But he wants it to feel like its real. He is a fan of historical fiction and wants his books to have the realism of historical fiction.

Question 11 - Re titles he considered for series or individual books and didn't use...

So far no ASOIAF titles he has come up with that haven't been used.) ASOIAF originally supposed to be a trilogy. He likes all his titles that he has come up with so far - they ring for him. That doesn't mean he won't change any if he comes up with something he likes better. He has put future titles out there so hopefully no one will use them. But he worries that someone is going to come out with a book titled D w/ D before he does. Fever Drem was River of Blood then Red Thirst then a couple of other titles. Sometimes publishers weigh in but not in his case.

HBO series is called Game of Thrones not ASOIAF. Second Season going to be Game of Thrones - Season 2. He agrees this is a better name for TV series than ASOIAF.

Question 12 - Does he know how the series is going to end?

He does know - not going to tell us.

Question 13 - Is it going to be easier to finish the books after A Dance with Dragons?

Not going to say anything is easy - just tempting fate. Especially last book. Last book has frustrated him in terms of how long it will take and when it will be done. Some fans complain he doesn't update enough re the status of the book or give predictions of when it will be done. There are actually fans who feel he finished D w/ D years ago and is witholding it from them.

Question 14 - Did the work he did previously in script writing influence this series?

Yes. He worked in television for 10 years (1985-95) and wrote for a lot of tv shows. While doing this wrote and edited Wild Card series. Both had impact on structure of series. TV is driven by commercials. There is always a fear that if each part ends on a dull note, people will turn to a different channel with the commercials start. So tv shows must be structured around cliffhangers at the end of each act before you go to commercial. That seemed to him a valid way to structure a book as well - structure your book with a series of act breaks. In his books you don't get commercials, he switches characters instead. Some readers read the books one character at a time instead of straight through. This frustrates him as it goes around his structure. The writing of dialogue was also greatly influenced by his time w/ television.

Question 15 - Will there be more Hedge Knight stories?

Yes. But ASOIAF must come first. So only in between.

Question 16 - He has a repeating motif of the buddy story in other books like Fever Dream or Hunter's Run - the characters have a bromance. If he could do a buddy story w/in ASOIAF, who would it be between?

Jon and Sam have a buddy...but this is distorted by Jon being a commander. With chapter he read from D w/ D (Jon chapter), he is trying to show how lonely it is to be a commander. He does think friendships are important. In new book some situations that might qualify as buddy stories but with a sting in the tail.

Question 17 - Whats with all the horrible things that happen to his characters?

Complex question. You write the stories that you want to read. He likes to read stories that involve him but he hates predictable stories. He likes to surprise his readers. There are many things we get out of reading fiction - but most important is vicarious experience. The best books are those where the adventures feel like they are happening to the reader. He looks back on Lord of the Rings which he first read when in junior high school - he can't remember who sat next to him or who his teachers were back then but he can remember everything that happened in the book. For him these fictional things are more real and remembered like they were his own experiences. There are techniques for achieving this - you engage the emotions of readers and make it real. You engage their senses. When he writes about feasts, he wants you to taste the food and smell it. He wants sex scenes to be arousing or frightening. With battle scenes, the reader needs to be afraid. War is filled with moments of boredom punctuated by extreme terror. Wars are part of fantasy. There is fear and then there is fear...we enjoy "fear" from riding a roller coaster and we call it "fear" - but it isn't really fear. We don't really think we are going to die when on a roller coaster. We experience a different fear when walking down a dark alley alone, thinking someone is behind us. We aren't afraid for Indiana Jones when he faces 40 Nazis - we know he will handle them okay and we will enjoy it but it doesn't really invoke our emotions. He wants the reader to sense that any of his characters could die at any moment. This needs to be established very early on in series. He doesn't want you to think anyone is safe.

Question 18 - Any characters in his books based on people he knows?

Some people. Where do we get characters from? You base them on people you know, from other books, and on yourself. Yourself is the biggest source of any character as it is the person you know best. Empathy is the most important skill for a writer - the ability to imagine yourself as someone other than yourself. He doesn't tend to do 1 to 1 things - cousin Fred is not replicated in whole. He might take some traits, however and give it to a character. It is a mixture of ingredients. Empathy and yourself most important in writing.

When he teaches a writer's workshop he gives an exercise to the students where he asks them to write an (anon) simple page about the wrost thing they have ever done. There is a certain vulnerabilty as a writer. Eventually you are going to write a story you don't want your mother to write. Its a good test for a writer. Most of us are saints and sinners and the most heroic of us have done shameful things.

Another useful exercise for a writer is to write a story from viewpoint of someone you hate. Someone who would violate all your...if you are right wing, write from viewpoint of communist. Try to make that person human. Its a good exercise for building empathy. He really tries to get inside skin of all his characters. Even Theon. Theon has his own reasons for doing appalling things so needs to be able to see why he does what he does and undestand it.

Question 19 - Re Tolkien being surprised at what happens in his books.

He has experienced that to some extent. There are 2 kinds of writers - architects and gardeners. An architect outlines everything before writing. Architect does models and drawings in advance before building gets built. A gardener digs a hole in the ground and waters it with his blood. A gardener knows a few things in advance - like what he planted. GRRM and Tolkien are more of gardeners than architects. Analogy of a journey. He is going to western Ireland after this. He has a map and a GPS and know places they will be visiting but doesn't know every twist and turn along the way. He doesn't know what hitchhickers they will meet or restaurants they will eat at. There is the unknown. His books are like that. The small details are the fun of the journey. It makes it fun and not a chore. For an architect all the fun is in the design stage.

Question 20 - Religion increasing as focus in series?

The religious revival in Westeros will continue to grow in series.

Question 21 - What books can't you stand?

He doesn't like to slag other authors. There are many books he puts down that don't capture him. As he was pulling books from his shelves for this trip, he realized he has too many unfinished books on shelves. But he prefers to concentrate on good books and authors.

Question 22 - CE Murphy asked re killing off his characters...but lost her question mid sentence and just gushed for a minute instead.

Question 23 - Anything he has kicked himself about including in book?

Too strong to say he kicked himself for including anything. He has a very complex plot. As he has struggled recently he wishes he didn't have so many balls in the air. Did he really need 7 kingdoms? 5 would be good. Or 9 free cities? Gene Wolf (editor for plant engineering magazine) was not dependent on his writing for income so he wrote an entire series of 4 books before sending it to his agent. This allowed him to go back and edit the entire series after knowing what happened. There are days he wishes he had the freedom Gene Wolf had to write like that. But then none of us would have read anything from him at this point. But he has no salary except writing so to pay his mortgage he had to publish books as he finished them and has to deal with result. But sometimes wishes he had freedom to revise.