Interview

George R.R. Martin talks Game of Thrones with ABC News as their Person of the Week

grrmabc

George R.R. Martin was interviewed last night on ABC World News as their Person of the Week.

The A Song of Ice and Fire author answers fan questions about his inspirations for King’s Landing, and the villainous Joffrey. He talks about writing strong female characters, and says that if he could play any character it would be the classic hero, Jon Snow. He also reveals that although his pilot cameo ended up on the cutting room floor, we can expect to see him on screen before the show’s end.

48 Comments

  • They made sure to spoil as much as humanly possible in that 3 minutes. Anyone that hasn’t seen the show had it ruined for them with no warning.

  • Martin makes the point I always harp on about with shows that drive me crazy–he writes people, and when you write your characters as people, your story is what happens as those people are thrown into situations and one another.

    The other way to write a show is to come up with a plot and create characters to fulfill functions of that plot. You can write a character (villain, hero, mentor, sidekick), or you can write a person who falls into certain roles depending on the dynamics of the other people in the scene, which is what happens in life.

    There’s this awesome part in The French Lieutenant’s Woman (by John Fowles) when he interrupts the narrative with his author’s perspective, insisting what he’s written is fiction, is a story, a figment of his imagination…but that doesn’t make the characters and story any less real than before he broke the spell, as it were. That authors are NOT in complete control of their creations–that they have thoughts and needs of their own, and authors serve them more than they serve their authors.

    If I weren’t so lazy I’d go get the book and quote it for you all, but cats are like characters, and mine is using half the keyboard as a pillow, and if I disturb her she won’t squint at me for days. I also doubt the value of Fowles’ poetic rendering of such sentiments is terribly important to many more than me in this instance.

    And holy spoilers, ABC, you flaming twatstick.

  • I love how he’s constantly asked “HOW DO YOU WRITE SUCH STRONG FEMALES!?” Is this something hard to do? Is writing a woman suddenly harder than writing anyone else? And there’s no woman in the series that’s any more “strong” or complex than the men.
    I sometimes almost feel bad for GRRM when he’s perpetually asked these stupid questions. Almost — cause he could say no to them and focus more on writing the books.

  • Finally! People standing up for the Unsulliest of Unsullied: those who don’t watch the show OR read the books. I’ll take the magazines off the racks at the checkout counters. Topdecker, you sit on Cheezburger.com and report any spoilers to the mods for deletion. Daniellica, do … whatever it is that you do.

    SHUT IT DOWN! SHUT IT ALL DOWN!

  • Cumsprite:
    Finally! People standing up for the Unsulliest of Unsullied: those who don’t watch the show OR read the books.

    …more for people who haven’t had the chance to watch the show yet (or read the books, but I’m being realistic). I have friends who want to watch it but don’t have HBO or someone to snag an HBOGO account from or the constitution to pirate the episodes. I have friends who are trying to catch up. I have friends who watch the episodes on Wednesdays. I have a lot of friends!

    Do you find it that unusual that not everyone who might be interested hasn’t had a chance to see it yet? And that people who aren’t interested now may become interested later? Is a spoiler warning too much to ask?

  • So what is the universally accepted delay time before the nightly news can openly discuss a cultural phenomenon? 99% of all media outlets were reporting details of the RW and PW within 24 hrs of showtime.

  • Hodor’s Bastard:
    So what is the universally accepted delay time before the nightly news can openly discuss a cultural phenomenon? 99% of all media outlets were reporting details of the RW and PW within 24 hrs of showtime.

    Let them report details in real-time for all I care. But a little, “Hey, if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t watch this!” would be nice. :)

  • Daniellica,

    Well, Officer Friendly of the Spoiler Division, if your chums are so keen on remaining unspoiled, I’d imagine they’d have the good sense to avoid this site or any other media platform that might (gasp!) talk about the show.

  • Daniellica: Let them report details in real-time for all I care. But a little, “Hey, if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t watch this!” would be nice. :)

    I don’t disagree with your “courteous” approach (I respect it!), but in this age of twitter, when has prudence ever been a media value?

  • Iron Badass,

    yeah his whole storyline kind of revolves around it… serving the night’s watch and protecting the world, rising in the ranks, not giving in to temptations and leaving and doing the right thing in the end, getting a VS sword, killing the monsters, standing up for weak people like Sam

  • Renly’s Peach:
    I love how he’s constantly asked “HOW DO YOU WRITE SUCH STRONG FEMALES!?” Is this something hard to do? Is writing a woman suddenly harder than writing anyone else? And there’s no woman in the series that’s any more “strong” or complex than the men.
    I sometimes almost feel bad for GRRM when he’s perpetually asked these stupid questions. Almost — cause he could say no to them and focus more on writing the books.

    Yeah, it’s pretty pathetic that ‘women are people’ is still considered a radical notion.

  • Renly’s Peach,

    I always loved the exchange from As Good As It Gets where Jack Nicholson’s character(an obnoxious, misgynistic author) is asked by a female fan how he writes such convincing women. He replies, “I think of a man. Then I take away reason and accountability.”

  • Renly’s Peach:
    I love how he’s constantly asked “HOW DO YOU WRITE SUCH STRONG FEMALES!?” Is this something hard to do? Is writing a woman suddenly harder than writing anyone else? And there’s no woman in the series that’s any more “strong” or complex than the men.

    1) It must be difficult to write “strong women” since most just write women who do things men normally do. That’s how most writers seem to see “strong women”. As macho.

    2) Also, well written women tend to be more complex than men since they have a more difficult time gaining respect from both men and women. This isn’t just true in fiction. It is true in real life.

    3) “Strong male” characters have been written for thousands of years. Writing strong women who aren’t just female versions of male characters is a recent thing, and very few have done it well. GRRM is one who has done it extremely well.

  • Writing strong females is a hard thing to do, considering GRRM is one of the only male authors — of any genre — that’s done it convincingly, IMO. I can’t even get through some literary junk, let alone white dude fantasy/SF, because all the women suffer from the authors’ whore-madonna complex.

    And I read a lot.

  • Lin Beifunk:
    Writing strong females is a hard thing to do, considering GRRM is one of the only male authors — of any genre — that’s done it convincingly, IMO. I can’t even get through some literary junk, let alone white dude fantasy/SF, because all the women suffer from the authors’ whore-madonna complex.

    And I read a lot.

    Also, many writers who try not to fall into the pitfalls of writing “strong female characters”, seem to not grasp that these characters can be good, bad, slutty, pure of heart, dangerous, kind, loving, hateful, and caring. All in the same character. They’re afraid their audience will be confused if they are truly complex.

    And that’s why the word “complex” applies in very few stories when it comes to “strong female characters”. And I can’t find any series that deals with more complex and actually strong women than ASOIAF.

    Once writers learn to create these complex female characters, they can stop worrying about writing “strong” ones and just write real versions of women that don’t patronize readers.

  • They should have asked him about TWOW just to piss him off. Anyway, he’s positive on a cameo is he? You go GRRM.

  • GeekFurious,

    :) You get it.

    I generally take “strong” to mean “strong in quality”, not strong like “independent woman with a sword/gun who don’t need no man.” A one-dimensional character who kicks ass is not strong; a complex but outwardly cowardly/morally weak/etc character is strong. You know what I mean? I don’t think people use the word that way, but that’s how I use it.

    Sansa and Arya are both strong in that they are complex. So are Catelyn, Cersei (pre-AFFC) and Brienne. All very different ladies, but all strong.

  • A cameo, huh? I suppose Wyman Manderly is more than a cameo. Always pictured him as George.

  • I can’t help but think of Joss Whedon’s monologue of what it’s like to always be asked the question about writing strong female characters…

    And yeah, I know people who want to see the show or read the books, they just really don’t have time right now to try to catch up on three plus seasons. Like a co-worker who’s been working on his thesis and starting a new job, or my brother who had premature, low birth weight twins last year and also runs his own company which requires a lot of his time, and so on.

  • There are people who are surprised by the idea of Jon Snow as a classic hero, or the closest thing ASOAIF has to a classic hero? Wasn’t that always obvious?

    On another note, OMG, Richard Madden looks so young in that shot from shooting the original pilot! If only he looked like that during the show, maybe it would have been easier to see him as a 17-year old.

  • GRRM’s cameo = Wyman Wanderly

    Seriously, I can totally see him being GRRM’s Marty Stu (is that the right term for a male Mary Sue?)

  • GeekFurious: Also, many writers who try not to fall into the pitfalls of writing “strong female characters”, seem to not grasp that these characters can be good, bad, slutty, pure of heart, dangerous, kind, loving, hateful, and caring. All in the same character. They’re afraid their audience will be confused if they are truly complex.

    And that’s why the word “complex” applies in very few stories when it comes to “strong female characters”. And I can’t find any series that deals with more complex and actually strong women than ASOIAF.

    Once writers learn to create these complex female characters, they can stop worrying about writing “strong” ones and just write real versions of women that don’t patronize readers.

    Lin Beifunk:
    GeekFurious,

    :) You get it.

    I generally take “strong” to mean “strong in quality”, not strong like “independent woman with a sword/gun who don’t need no man.” A one-dimensional character who kicks ass is not strong; a complex but outwardly cowardly/morally weak/etc character is strong. You know what I mean? I don’t think people use the word that way, but that’s how I use it.

    Sansa and Arya are both strong in that they are complex. So are Catelyn, Cersei (pre-AFFC) and Brienne. All very different ladies, but all strong.

    Well, while I agree with the general sentiment, I don’t think that complexity is a pre-requisite for a character to be strong. I wouldn’t consider Dunk to be a particularly complex character, for instance, but that doesn’t mean that he is a weak character. While having lot of layers makes characters particularly interesting, I think that what a character needs to be to be strong is just to be convincing and believably human, with motivations, character traits and feelings of their own, not a stereotype and more than a prop in someone else’s story. Minor characters can also be very memorable and be more than a stereotype/prop even if they are there to serve a main character’s story. For instance, I think that Mirri Maz Duur, while her function was to be a catalyst in Dany’s story, manage to be an interesting character with her own believable and legitimate motivations, in the little time we get to know her.

    I agree that “strong (female) character”, or strong characters in general, should refer to quality, not things like “kicking ass”. Not that some very strong female characters (or male characters) don’t do just that, but they are also strong as characters in the above sense of the word; other characters can be strong without political power or physical fighting, while other may be written with the intention of being “kickass” but are actually weak, because they are just stereotypes.

    I love George’s previous answer to this question: “I’ve always thought of women as people” as well as Joss Whedon’s reply to an even worse question (“Why do you write such strong female characters”) – “Because you’re still asking me that question”. But I think we’re still a bit unfair on this interviewer – it does make sense to ask George how he manages to write strong female characters, because a lot of writers are still awful at it, and fiction is still full of one-dimensional female characters who fall into stereotypes such as love interest, femme fatale, evil bitch, mother, damsel (classic damsel is unpopular these days, but you’ll often see a character, particularly a love interest, introduced as a”strong woman”, and then reduced to a damsel), and, a particularly popular contemporary stereotype, kickass sexy woman who is part male fantasy, part product of people misunderstanding what a “strong female character” is supposed to be.

    (BTW I disagree that Cersei is not complex in AFFC. Her complicated attitudes to gender are fascinating, to begin with. Just that scene with a… certain Myrish… thing [trying not to spoil here] ads so much complexity, and that’s just one example of all the messed up things going in her mind regarding gender, power, powerlessness, internalized misogyny, and contradictory feelings about men in her life such as her father. I think that, when it comes to villainous characters, people often mistake complexity with likability, which is why so many claim that Show!Cersei is more complex than book!Cersei, which I disagree with.)

  • Chickenduck,

    I’m pretty sure Sam is his self-insert and Tyrion is is wish fulfillment character. Thrown in Dany’s purple eyes, tragic backstory and the cult of personality that surrounds her and you’ve got a nice composite Sue.

  • So all the weddings Martin has been to irl have been dull affairs , by Dothraki standards in any case.

  • GRRM as Yezzan zo Qaggaz would be my cameo choice. He would get to interact with Tyrion, he would get to play one of his bizarre, eccentric side-characters, and he wouldn’t have to shower for weeks. Plus, I’d like to hear him speak Ghiscari..

  • This interview was a pleasant surprise. We get to hear about his childhood. I’m a little surprised everybody here is focusing on the same old crap. Spoilers… his cameo appearance… strong female characters…. zzzzzz. The answers to some of your questions are so obvious.

    I will say that I wouldn’t care much for a cameo appearance. It would probably break a 4th wall for me.

  • Delta1212,

    Tyrion is the opposite of Marty Stu. He is very flawed, full of issues and insecurities, can be very petty and selfish; in-universe he is widely unpopular, and several major and sympathetic characters dislike or distrust him and/or are antagonistic to him; very few people find him attractive, and when he fantasizes about some beautiful woman falling for him, they usually don’t; he hasn’t been that successful so far, and he’s even been outwitted a few times, and that’s his strongest point.

    And if Tyrion is Georges wish-fullfilment character, George must be really masochistic.

  • Lin Beifunk:
    Writing strong females is a hard thing to do, considering GRRM is one of the only male authors — of any genre — that’s done it convincingly, IMO. I can’t even get through some literary junk, let alone white dude fantasy/SF, because all the women suffer from the authors’ whore-madonna complex.

    And I read a lot.

    One of the only male authors of any genre to write convincing female characters? Really?

    Congrats on reading a lot of pages and stuff.

  • Damn! That was such a creepy picture of his childhood! He looked just like he does now only minus the beard!!

  • Off the top of my head, I recall the female lead in Clive Barker’s The Great and Secret Show/Everville being a very strong, interesting character (and Imagica? it’s been so long…).

    Also in We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (the first scifi dystopian novel–please read it), there are a couple of fascinating female characters that run circles around the protagonist, and it was written in 1921 in Bolshevik Russia (and was banned in that country until 1988; had to be smuggled out through Czechoslovakia).

    I won’t even venture into non-scifi/horror/fantasy, where dozens more amazing female characters come to mind.

    I also found my copy of The French Lieutenant’s Woman and will quote my reference to spite you all!

    [from Chapter 13, smack in the middle of the narrative]

    This story I am telling is all imagination. These characters I create never existed outside my own mind. If I have pretended until now to know my characters’ minds and innermost thoughts, it is because I am writing in…a convention universally accepted at the time of my story: that the novelist stands next to God. He may not know all, yet he tries to pretend that he does. …

    You may think novelists always have fixed plans to which they work, so that the future predicted by Chapter One is always inexorably the actuality of Chapter Thirteen. But most novelists write for countless different reasons: for money, for fame, for reviewers, for parents, for friends, for loved ones; for vanity, for pride, for curiosity, for amusement: as skilled furniture-makers enjoy making furniture, as drunkards like drinking, as judges like judging, as Sicilians like emptying a shotgun into an enemy’s back. I could fill a book with reasons, and they would all be true, though not true of all. Only one same reason is shared by all of us: we wish to create worlds as real as, but other than the world that is. Or was. This is why we cannot plan. We know a world is an organism, not a machine. We also know that a genuinely created world must be independent of its creator; a planned world (a world that fully reveals its planning) is a dead world. It is only when our characters and events begin to disobey us that they begin to live. …

    There is only one good definition of God: the freedom that allows other freedoms to exist. …

    I have disgracefully broken the illusion? No. My characters still exist, and in a reality no less, or no more, real than the one I have just broken. Fiction is woven into all, as a Greek observed some two and a half thousand years ago. I find this new reality (or un-reality) more valid; and I would have you share my own sense that I do not fully control these creatures of my mind, any more than you control…your children, colleagues, friends, or even yourself.

    But is this preposterous? A character is either ‘real’ or ‘imaginary’? If you think that, hypocrite lecteur, I can only smile. You do not even think of your own past as quite real; you dress it up, you gild it or blacken it, censor it, tinker with it … fictionalize it, in a word, and put it away on a shelf–your book, your romanced autobiography. We are all in flight from the real reality. That is a basic definition of Homo sapiens.

    So if you think all this unlucky (but it is Chapter Thirteen) digression has nothing to do with your Time, Progress, Society, Evolution and all those other capitalized ghosts in the night that are rattling their chains behind the scenes of this book … I will not argue. But I shall suspect you.

  • asfastasican:
    This interview was a pleasant surprise. We get to hear about his childhood. I’m a little surprised everybody here is focusing on the same old crap. Spoilers… his cameo appearance… strong female characters…. zzzzzz.

    He’s been asked and talked about his childhood in every single major interview he’s done. None of that is new.

  • Daniellica,

    Draga Daniellica (I couldn’t resist),

    The French Lieutenant’s woman is a gem. Too bad many of Fowles’ other novels, such as The Collector and even the Magus, and above all the dreadful Mantissa, are so self-indulgent (A Maggot is quite good, though).

    A similar delightful technique of self-reflection by the author is displayed in an adventure novel called Leon i Leonina, set in the 18th century, with a very strong and intelligent heroine (its author hates the Game of Thrones, yet reveres Tolkien — the mysteries of taste!).

    As for Zamyatin, I’ve often wondered whether Orwell appropriated parts of it for his 1984.

    In the case of GRRM, his women are wonderful, but his depiction of so called “non-white” peoples, including women, is very mediocre; this flaw must reflect his upbringing in the somewhat provincial NJ of the 1950s, I suppose. Nowadays there are too many South and East Asians in that area to be ignored, but he should have included more than just a few side characters. The Dothraki he sees as somewhat Mongolic, but they are an echo of Scythians for sure.

    In most of these novels, including those by GRRM, the spirit and the intelligence of many women is well-depicted; too bad the physique turns out to be too predictable. I for one would love to see a picaresque novel with a Peruvian Quechua peasant girl in Paris or a woman Khoikhoi avenger of the Hottentot Venus — alas, this will not happen, not even on GOT.

  • GRRM should be Sam in the ADOS epilogue chroncling the events in a book.

    I think the best way to write a strong female character is to write a strong character, then just make them female.

  • ABC should warn about the SPOILERS in that interview, the courtesy would be appreciated no doubt for those who haven’t been watching.

  • off-topic:

    MX:
    Daniellica,

    Draga Daniellica (I couldn’t resist),

    The French Lieutenant’s woman is a gem. Too bad many of Fowles’ other novels, such as The Collector and even the Magus, and above all the dreadful Mantissa, are so self-indulgent (A Maggot is quite good, though).

    A similar delightful technique of self-reflection by the author is displayed in an adventure novel called Leon i Leonina, set in the 18th century, with a very strong and intelligent heroine (its author hates the Game of Thrones, yet reveres Tolkien — the mysteries of taste!).

    As for Zamyatin, I’ve often wondered whether Orwell appropriated parts of it for his 1984.

    It’s commonly accepted that Orwell was inspired by “We” in writing “1984”. He read “We” and wrote this review of it http://orwell.ru/library/reviews/zamyatin/english/e_zamy in 1946, two years before “1984” was published.

  • attention GRRM.. you have bigger priorities (did i spell that right) than tv interviews. finish the damn book!!!!!