As a Santa Fe resident, George R.R. Martin is the latest feature on New Mexico In Focus. The author sat down for a lengthy interview inside his Jean Cocteau Cinema to talk about his work. Martin discusses many elements of his A Song of Ice and Fire series, including the ethical and moral questions it raises, the roots of fantasy in history, questionable leaders, and religion.
A hot topic of discussion recently has been the obligation that Martin has to his fans to finish his story. Martin answers whether he does feel that obligation, and if the pressure from all sides to finish the next book has any effect on his work.
The interview was filmed before we learned that he would not be writing an episode for Game of Thrones Season 5, but Martin admits that he does wish he could be much more involved in the show’s entire production process, and lends some insight into how much writing just one episode can derail him from working on the next book.
He also talks about how his life has changed since becoming a ‘celebrity’ writer because of the HBO series, and hopes that once his 15 minutes are up the show will be remembered as one of the greats in television history.
(2:04) Now you have millions of loyal fans who are clamouring for the next instalment, and by clamouring, I mean sometimes not so politely, they are begging, demanding. Do you feel an obligation to them?
Obligation is an odd word, I don’t know if I would go with that word. I certainly feel a desire to finish the book. And it must be said that while I do get a lot of emails and mail of the type you’re describing, there are also many, many that are supportive, and probably far more of people saying “take your time, I love your books, whenever you’re ready I’ll be here.” Of course which is an attitude that I find far more pleasant than the “when will it be done?” I’ve actually given up answering the question “when will it be done?” In the early days, especially after the third book, because the fourth book took a really long time, and I kept being wrong. People said when will it be done, and I’d give an answer and it would not be done by then, I would run into some problem, or decide to rewrite, or I would change course. And once you give a date and then you miss that date, there’s an element of the audience that thinks you’re doing it deliberately. There are even some strange conspiracy theorists out there who are convinced that I finished the whole thing years ago but I’m just hiding the books in my cellar and releasing them in order to maximize something or other. There’s a lot of craziness that goes on, but it’s pressure, and the obligation is to the work itself. I’m telling a story, however many books you divide it into, three books, four books, seven books, which is what I’m presently going for, it’s one story, as much as as Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings is one story. It has a beginning, it has a lot of middle, and eventually it will have an end.
(4:01) But does that pressure from all of those people, and from HBO, your publisher, does that get under your skin, does it rattle you, does it make it harder for you to sit down and write?
Yes, to some extent it does, but when the writing is going well it doesn’t matter. When I’m there and working, I just kind of fall through my computer screen and I forget the world, I forget deadlines, I forget the TV show, and the emails, and all of that stuff. It’s just me and the characters and the world that I’m describing, and I’m writing a page at a time, and a scene at a time, and a word at a time.
(19:18) You spent time as a screen writer and you’ve written several episodes for HBO. Do you wish that you could write them all?
I wish I could write more of them. We do ten episodes a season and I write one usually. But if I wasn’t writing the books I would be hopefully a bigger part of the show, and I could write two episodes, maybe three episodes a season, that would be fun. I can wish for it, but it’s not going to happen, I still have two enormous books to write. I have The Winds of Winter that I’m working on right now, and that’s going to be another monster, and then when i finish that I have the last book, A Dream of Spring, which is gonna be another 1500 page monster where I try to wrap this up. These books take me a long long time to do, so even just writing one episode per season is growing increasingly hard. You have to put the book aside, and sort of go back in time to things you wrote two or three or five or seven years ago and do new versions of them, it breaks the stride a little. I wish I could be more involved in the show, I wish I could be over there in Belfast on the set, I wish I could be taking part in all of the auditions and the casting sessions, seeing the dailies, and working on it the way I worked on TV shows like Beauty and the Beast and The Twilight Zone when I was more active in television, but the truth is I can’t.
Get a daily update of the site’s latest news, conveniently sent in newsletter form, directly to your inbox. Sign up for WiC Daily.