The Citadel

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


Comic Book Resources Interview

USA Today Interview

Somerville Times Interview

Union Square Signing

I showed up to B&N a little before 4 and the seats had already filled up, so I took a seat on the floor in the standing room line. I was early enough that I was about 60 or 70 people back in line, which meant I still got through pretty quickly once the signing began and was out a little before 9. Big props to the B&N staff for keeping things organized and moving quickly.

George got a standing ovation when he came up the escalator and his first words on the microphone were, "Wow. See, I really was working on it!" He talked about how much bigger the crowds are now than when he was on the book tour for AGOT and told the story of how the four people at a signing in St. Louis got up and left as he was about to start ("Some writers talk about having no one show up to their signings, but I think I'm the only one who can claim a turnout of negative 4!").

George said he'd talk about the three questions he gets most often. Most people here know the answer to "What took you so long?" The second question was "When will the next one be out?", and he said "It will be done when it's done. I've learned my lesson not to make promises." He also said he hoped to have the ASOIAF World Book out next year. The third question was "What do you think of the TV show?", and his answer was "I love the TV show, I think it's amazing." He talked about the Emmy nominations (Peter Dinklage's nomination drew the biggest applause), mentioned that ADWD had the biggest first-day sales of any new novel published in 2011, and then opened the floor up for questions.

Quick summary of audience questions and GRRM's answers (the quoted parts are my notes filled out to the best of my memory):

Q: Is it possible the tale will grow in the telling again and we will see eight book?

A: "I would like to do it in 7," but he didn't want to make any promises.

Q: Do the many gods serve any other purpose?

A: George answered this by talking about what he sees as the two schools of readers: those interested mainly in plot and those who are interested in the entire experience. "My philosophy of fiction is not necessarily all about advancing the plot... I want to give my readers a vicarious experience. Ten years later, I don't want you to remember you read a book, I want you to remember you lived an experience."

Q: What new advice for young writers did you learn by writing Dance?

A: "Don't try to write something so gigantic! When I finish the series I'm never going to do it again," adding that he would write more short stories and standalones. His summary of advice to young writers is "write everyday," "read voraciously" in multiple genres, and "start with short stories."

Q: What is the last book you read that you thought was great?

A: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey. George admitted he was a bit biased as Corey is really his assistant Ty and his friend Daniel Abraham, but he did love the book.(Right after he said this, a B&N employee walked down the aisle I was standing in, grabbed a big stack of copies of Leviathan Wakes, and brought them out to a table by the top of the down escalator. I heard later that they sold all of them by the end of the night.)

Q: Is a certain POV character in ADWD gay?

A: "I can't answer without spoiling, but if you're talking about what I think you're talking about, then yes." George mentioned that there are gay characters in ASOIAF. He mentioned Loras & Renly, saying that he included "what I thought were subtle but clear hints. HBO was not subtle about it."

Q: Will you make a cameo in the HBO series?

A: "Probably, though you'll have to watch very carefully." He told the story of his cameo in the original pilot and the crazy hat he wore as a Tyroshi.

Q: How do you stay plugged into the story and keep track of the details?

A: "Most of the stuff is kepts in my head. I do have notes and charts, but not as many as I should." And he emails Ran with questions about character details. :) He said he gets upset with himself when he makes a mistake, because there are already intentional mistakes in what characters say. "Some inconsistencies are deliberate. There are unreliable narrators, especially when they are remembering things."

Q: Did you have to fight with your publisher to keep that huge thing that happens in the first book? (There was a no spoiler policy in effect for the Q&A.)

A: "No."

Q: How long should an aspiring writer stick with one idea?

A: "If an idea comes to you and demands to be written, you need to write it." (My apologies for not taking better notes on the answer.)

Q: Hodor hodor hodor, hodor hodor, hodor hodor hodor hodor?

A: "Definitely hodor."

And then he started signing books, and then we all ended up at Professor Thom's where the bar had made a sign for the "Game of Thrones Fan Party" on the second floor, and it was a good time.

Union Square Signing

[Note: This report refers to the question of Jeyne Westerlings hips, described by Catelyn as being "good" for the purposes of having children, and described by Jaime as "narrow". This seeming contradiction has sparked theories that the girl Jaime sees and is told is Jeyne is in fact an impostor.]

I actually asked GRRM about this at the union square signing. When he spoke he said some mismatched descriptions are him doing it on purpose, and some are mistakes. And the mistakes are really unfortunate because it detracts from when he does it on purpose.

When we approached the stage for signings we had the chance to ask a quick question, and he told me that that the hips were a mistake unfortunately.

Signing in Burlington, MA

George showed up, got big applause. Is currently explaining what took so long. The story we all know. Some on his writing process. Sometimes writes several of the same pov chapters in a row. Lots of people are recording this so more complete synopses will be available, doubtless. Comments that he knew it would annoy people to move his most popular characters out of A Feast for Crows but that he didn't realize just HOW annoyed people would get.

Made a quip about his bit at the end of AFFC about the next book being along in a year. "It took longer than I thought, but here we are in 2007 and dance is out!" References the chapbook with the first three Dany chapters from 2005 and that it offers insight as to how much the book has changed since then. Some jokes about football. Shouts of "Go Pats!" from some in the crowd, getting laughs. Oh, Boston. Actively not promising TWOW next year. Hopes it won't take as long as AFFC and ADWD. But "no promises" and "there are lots of other good books". Promotes Abraham, Lynch and Rothfuss.

A dude directly across from me looks like the undertaker's ugly brother. He never smiles. I'm saying right now that if something awful happens, he probably did it. George lauds Gwendolen Christie (Brienne). Says a half dozen other roles have been cast but he can't talk about them yet. They're going to start filming next season. As executive producer he writes one episode per season. Says he'd like to write more than one, but that we'd get to wait twenty years for The Winds of Winter rather than the six for A Dance with Dragons.

Still seven books and favorite character?

Favorite is Tyrion but he loves them all, even the slimeballs. Still aiming for seven books but no promises.

Any potential future for Syrio Forel?

Martin gives no comment.

Aging up of characters in the show?

The prime reason was Dany, since it was felt they couldn't show a thirteen year old girl going through what she goes through. Real medieval culture had no adolescence so he goes with that in the books. Modern society doesn't go with that, so while a married thirteen year old having sex is fine in a book, but moving to tv would necessitate either removal of sex scenes or aging her. In the UK an adult actor can't portray an underage character in sexual situations legally. So by upping her age they ended up upping other kids' ages.

The other factor being that casting child actors is harder than casting teenage and young adult actors. Kid actors recite words but don't act much or else try overact and overemote.

Jokes about why he never wrote a Rickon POV. "I have an inner child, but it's not that young."

What if HBO catches up?

They won't catch up! "I have a big head start."

Any pov characters in Casterly Rock?

Yes, maybe in TWOW.

The first two books were big and written fast, was that a creative spurt?

Parts of A Clash of Kings were ending up in A Gameo of Thrones, so he cut it off and when A Game of Thrones was published a lot of A Clash of Kings was written. He admits that A Storm of Swords was written quickly. Moved a Sansa chapter to The Winds of Winter because it was the beginning of a plot so worked better in a new book.

How are you dealing with the crush of fandom?

"Ask me at the end of this signing". 1500 people here, big but not as big as the 2000 in Slovenia. A Feast for Crows had the first really scary signings for him. Mentions his rules to keep the line moving. Four people in Slovenia fainted.

What's it like having your books translated to tv?

"it's been great for me!" since he worked in tv for so long he knows what to expect realistically from an adaption.

What would you name your direwolf?

Depends on personality. Has a cat named Asha.

On Point Interview

[NOTE: Audio link at the top of the article.]

EW Interview

[NOTE: There are small spoilers for A Dance with Dragons and The Winds of Winter in the interview.] Interview

[NOTE: This interview took place on July 8, 2011, 4 days before the release of A Dance with Dragons.]

Congratulations on finishing the book! It must have felt like the longest marathon ever.

It's nice to have it done, no doubt about that. This one has been on my back for a long, long time.

Is it a relief to say it's done, or was there a part of you that wanted to hold onto it longer and work on it a bit more?

You know, there's always the question of when you let the bird leave the nest. My editors finally pried it out of my hands, or otherwise it might have been another year or so as I wrote more and fiddled with it. But at a certain point it also gets so long that you can't fit it all in one book. I'm pretty happy with the book, but of course the fans and readers are the ultimate judges of it and they'll decide how good it is. But I'm pretty satisfied with it.

When I've read across the series, when you look at A Game of Thrones, it feels really tightly written, quite plot heavy as it sets up everything. And then from there, atmosphere and character seems to come to the fore more. Was that always intended or is this a by-product of the increasing complexity of the story?

My goal in all my writing is always to provide the reader with a vicarious experience, and I think atmosphere is part of that. While I think the advancement of the plot is certainly important, it's not the single most important thing. If the advancement of the plot were the most important thing, we'd be reading Cliffs Notes and not the novels themselves. The plot is one factor that makes a successful novel, but not the only thing. So things like atmosphere, setting, and particularly character are equally crucial, if not more crucial. I think character is really the heart of fiction.

When I compare to your earlier work, the series certainly seems like a departure from what you did before.

A Game of Thrones and "A Song of Ice and Fire" was a departure for me in many ways. Not only the first major work of epic fantasy or high fantasy that I had attempted -- although there were some short stories and such before, but nothing on this scale -- but also definitely the most complicated plot, the largest cast of characters, the most epic kind of thing. Many of my stories before that had been relatively small and contained in scale, with largely personal stakes for the protagonist or the viewpoint character. Even something like Fevre Dream, the whole world is not being affected by what was happening to Abner Marsh and his steamboat line.

It was a departure, but then again I like departures. I've always tried to do different things in my career, and I hope to continue to do different things.

I wanted to ask about your process in creating the series, through a specific example from A Dance with Dragons. To dance around it a bit, lets say that we learn more about the story of the three-eyed crow, a figure first glimpsed in a very early Bran chapter. Were these details something you knew all along? Or was it a situation where you knew you'd need more information to go with this mystical figure, but figured you'd just come across those details organically later on in the series?

I wouldn't say I knew right from the start, but I've certainly known the details for a long, long time. From the very start, I didn't even really know what this story was. As I've said before, when the first chapter came to me, I was in the midst of writing a science fiction novel, Avalon, when I started writing this story about wolf pups being found in the snow. So, you know, some point very early on, before A Game of Thrones was published, I had started filling in these details. We're talking 1994 or 1995.

There was a point early on, relatively early in the writing of the series, where I stopped writing and did a spate of world building. I didn't do it before I started, like Tolkien, but I was writing the book and I was getting in and starting to refer to history. So I stopped and started to formalize it, drawing the maps, working out the genealogies, the list of the Targaryen rulers and the dates of their reigns, and so on. But of course, as you know -- because you're one of the ones that pointed it out back then -- it didn't all necessarily jive with what I wrote in "The Hedge Knight". But in any case, I was starting to think about all of these things as I did it, and I had little hints about their stories through the nicknames I gave the kings. So Maegor the Cruel, Jaehaerys the Conciliator, and the Young Dragon, and so on. So the seeds of a lot of the history were planted when I drew up that list.

There's been an interesting discussion on our forum concerning "orientalism" as it's expressed in your work, and one question it's led to among readers is whether you've ever considered a foreign point of view characters in Essos, to give a different window into events there.

No, this story is about Westeros. Those other lands are important only as they reflect on Westeros.

Part of the difficulty of this particular novel was what you called the "Meereenese Knot", trying to get everything to happen in just the right order, pulling various plot strands together in one place, and part of the solution was the addition of another point of view character. Was this something where you tried writing it from a number of different point of views before settling on a new one? Did you actively resist adding a new character?

The Meerenese Knot related to everyone reaching Dany. There's a series of events that have to occur in Meereen, things that are significant. She has various problems to deal with at the start: dealing with the slavers, threats of war, the Sons of the Harpy, and so on. At the same time, there's all of these characters trying to get to her. So the problem was to figure out who should reach her and in what order, and what events should happen by the time they've reached her. I kept coming up with different answers and I kept having to rewrite different versions and then not being satisfied with the dynamics until I found something that was satisfactory. I thought that solution worked well, but it was not my first choice.

There's a Dany scene in the book which is actually one of the oldest chapters in the book that goes back almost ten years now. When I was contemplating the five year gap [Martin laughs here, with some chagrin], that chapter was supposed to be the first Daenerys chapter in the book. Then it became the second chapter, and then the third chapter, and it kept getting pushed back as I inserted more things into it. I've rewritten that chapter so much that it ended in many different ways.

There's a certain time frame of the chronology where you can compare to A Feast for Crows and even A Storm of Swords and figure out when they would reach Meereen and the relative time frames of each departure and each arrival. But that doesn't necessarily lead to the most dramatic story. So you look at it and try and figure out how to do it. I also wanted to get across how difficult and dangerous it was to travel like this. There are many storms that will wreck your ship, there are dangerous lands in between where there are pirates and corsairs, and all that stuff. It's not like hopping on a 747, where you get on and then step off the plane a few hours later. So all of these considerations went into the Meereenese Knot.

Then there's showing things after [an important event], which proved to be very difficult. I tried it with one point of view character, but this was an outsider who could only guess at what was going on, and then I tried it with a different character and it was also difficult. The big solution was when I hit on adding a new point of view character who could give the perspective this part of the story needed.

I know that you've said that somewhere in the course of writing A Clash of Kings you put everything on hold to -- maybe not outline, but just rough out the major events you wanted to do. How much of that is still in play or has it changed a lot?

I've talked in general about the chronological changes, so for example I had wanted the kids to get older in the course of the books originally, but that wasn't working out the way the story was going. When that became obvious, I came up with the five year gap, and then I abandoned the five year gap. All of this impacted the chronology. That's the biggest change, other than that things are more or less on course the way I did them. But as you said, I'm a gardener, I'm not an architect. So my road-map is in very broad strokes... We're starting to mix our metaphors, with gardeners and architects and road-maps.

Just to wrap up, I don't know if you've had a chance to remark on the final episode of HBO's Game of Thrones. How did you like it and the final scene?

I loved the episode. I thought the final scene of the episode was magnificent.

NY Daily News Interview

Atlantic Monthly Interview

Wall Street Journal Speakeasy Interview

Chapters Interview Report on GRRM in Slovenia

[Note: This article reports on Martin's trip to Slovenia, and is in Slovenian. However, the embedded video features Martin discussing the genesis of the novels and shows other details from his trip.]

XVIII Festival of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Ndzica, Poland

[Note: This report is somewhat garbled, but we'll leave the text as is. In fact, it's not the title of the story -- it is, instead, the title of the anthology that the novella will appear in, the title giving away the theme of the anthology... and so still supporting the idea that it likely involves the Wolf Women of Winterfell.]

"Dangerous Women".

That's the title for the planned fourth Dunk&Egg novella. George said as much Friday last week in Poland. I was there. Unfortunately the other answers to questions are not that revealing.