Books George R. R. Martin Interview

George R.R. Martin speaks at Edinburgh International Book Festival

George R.R. Martin appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this week to discuss his writing, and meet with his Scottish fans.

Martin took part in two hour long Q&A sessions. The first of which, titled Creating Brave New Worlds, focused largely on his writing, and his work on A Song of Ice and Fire. The event was live streamed on BBC and will be available on demand soon, but in the mean time, The Guardian has provided a number of great quotes from the session.

His writing has been inspired by Scottish history:

“Standing in Hadrian’s Wall on a cold day – not quite cold and grey as this day – I stared off into Scotland and tried to imagine what it was like to be a Roman legionary. It was a profound feeling.”

“Scottish history is very bloody, but so are the histories from most places. I guess what made it special is that it has been extensively chronicled, and that it has been done in English, so I’ve had more access to it.”

He often gets letters requesting male sex scenes in his books:

“I do get letters from fans that want me to present an explicit male sex scene. Most of these letters come from women. I don’t pretend to understand this, I merely read my emails. I’m not going to shy away from doing it if it has to happen, but I don’t think you can just insert things because everyone wants to see them.”

“In the books I have a very limited third-person viewpoint. It’s the way I prefer to write fiction, because it’s the way we all see and experience life. I put gay characters in the books but they’re not the viewpoint characters. A TV show doesn’t have that limitation.”

Some fans have followed the clues he has left and have formed correct theories, but it hasn’t changed the outcome:

“I struggle with this because I do want to surprise my readers, delight them and take them in directions they didn’t see coming. I hate predictable fiction as a reader. I want to surprise and delight my reader and take the story in directions they didn’t see coming. Some readers in internet boards got the clues. Do I change it? No, I can’t, as I had planted them and it would be a mess.”

He also dropped some small book spoilers. (Hop over the next paragraph if you’d like to skip them.)

When asked whether there would be any new major characters in the series, he revealed that Willas Tyrell would be stepping into the light, as well as some characters from the free cities that have been previously mentioned. Although he doesn’t think they will be POV characters, he wouldn’t rule it out for certain.

Update: For those in the UK, the entire 42 minute Q&A is now available to watch online! For the rest of us, the clip of Martin admitting that one or two readers have followed his clues correctly has been released:

Martin’s second event, titled From Mind to Page to Screen, focused on how it feels to see the screen incarnations of his complex fictional universe in Game of Thrones, and his work in television.

The following highlights were compiled from live Tweets courtesy of Edinburgh Book Fest and Claire Armistead.

On working in television:
“My years in Hollywood sharpened my ear for dialogue and gave me a good sense for act structure. The viewpoint structure of Game of Thrones ends with act breaks. I honed this skill from writing for TV to fit in commercials.”

On choosing a television adaptation, and his involvement:
“It would have taken 9 films to do my books so I turned down film for TV, opting for HBO. I wrote one script for first season, watched auditions on video, but my job is to write books. It might have been different if I’d finished series. The books are my baby. The show is their baby. Right now we’re the most expensive show on TV, with the biggest cast in history of TV but still have to amalgamate characters.”

On why there is more sex in the series than the books:
“I’m not really sure there is more sex. There’s a difference between seeing something and reading it. Generally I’m in favour of sex and I think a large part of the audience is too. It has always astonished me that there’s so much more upset about the sex than about the violence.”

On his characters:
“All the viewpoint characters embody my wit, my dreams and desires, because to write them you have to be inside their skins.”

“Sooner or later every writer hs a character they wouldn’t want their mother to read. You have to bleed on the page.”

On the show catching up to him:
“The show has certainly caught up with me but I’m writing the books as fast as I can and I can’t worry about that.”

On enjoying writing:
“I can’t say I’ve enjoyed writing something until it’s done. I enjoy ‘having written’ rather than ‘writing.’”

Update: The Associated Press has a short clip from this session including his answer on why the television show has more sex scenes, and if he is concerned about the show catching up to his book:

Martin recently gave an interview to The Independent while at Neuchâtel International Film Festival.

Martin discusses an array of topics in the lengthy interview including his early life, and his almost-career as a chess tournament director.

He touches on the growing discontent within a small group of his fans who are clamouring for the release of the next installment of A Song of Ice and Fire, and admits that it’s a problem most writers would “die to have.”

“I have the best fans in the world for the most part. There is a minority who are annoying, it has to be said. But for every one of those, there are 500 who are just great and who are very supportive. They buy the books and come out in their thousands when I do a signing.”

“With most writers, no one gives a shit when their book is coming out and even when it does come out, no one cares. I would much rather have my problem than their problem.”

He also reiterates that he wouldn’t mind seeing a Game of Thrones movie to cap off the series, if only to do some of his battles justice.

“If we go seven or eight seasons and then the show is still big enough that we can get the $200m to finance a huge epic movie to end it… sure!”

“We still run into budgetary problems. We’ve done a couple of great battles, for example, the Black Water battle in season two that I scripted and in this past season, episode nine was one long battle – the Battle of the Wall. Those have been great episodes, but we’ve also had to skip half the battles. Instead we have a messenger run on from off stage and say ‘We’ve won the battle!’ Battles are very expensive.”

But he wouldn’t care for it in 3D. “It gives me a headache.”

For the full interview, visit The Independent.

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  • shk12344,

    As George always does, he writes when he’s at home and in the right frame of mind to do so. Admittedly, with the success of Game of Thrones and the resultant increase in media and publicity commitments this is not as often as we’d all like. I think that we will be fortunate indeed to see TWOW published this year or in the first half of 2015.

    Willas Tyrell? I quite pleased with that. We’ve not had a Tyrell POV so far and it will be good to have someone who can give insights into the rest of this family as well as, hopefully, a visit to Highgarden.

    One for pedants corner…. Hadrians Wall is not in Scotland, but entirely within England. You might be able to see Scotland at the western end of the wall at the Solway Firth, but that’s it. The Antonine Wall, but on the orders of the Emperor Antonius Pius IS entirely within Scotland. It’s further north than it’s better known and older predecessor and crosses the narrowest part of Scotland (a ‘neck’ if you will) between the cities of Glasgow & Edinburgh. There isn’t much left of this wall other than earthen banks and ditches. It’s ramparts were mostly timber constructions.

  • At least he admitted that the show has indeed caught up to him. I would love for him to write something be it a book,screenplay,or series in the gothic horror genre!

  • Further to what I said earlier about Willas Tyrell, I had a bit of a think (plus a glass of good red). I recall that GRRM has in all likelihood ruled out any new POV, which probably precludes Willas becoming one. The potential exception is if he is a prologue POV, but as these tend to suffer violent deaths at this end of their chapter, I think that Willas is likely to be safe from this, fingers crossed.

    So, this leads me to to the following question. Which of the existing POV will we vicariously meet Willas through? (Spoiler shield up!!) I’m assuming that we will encounter Willas somewhere in the Reach leading the response to the Ironborn assault on the Mander. If I’m right he will meet one of the following:

    1. Samwell Tarly, probably in Oldtown while speaking to his mothers family the Hightowers.

    2. Euron Grejoy during a parley between the Tyrell’s & Ironborn.

    3. Arianne Martell on her journey north to KL.

    Spoiler shield off!

    What does everyone think?

  • Athelstan,

    Mods, for some reason I can’t add spoilers from my iPhone in my current location. This ha not intentional!! Please can someone with the correct privileges amend my last post and add spoilers were necessary. Thank you.

  • Lol @ people wanting man sex. Maybe JonCon can get some, I mean he IS getting pretty rock hard.~ huehuehuehuehuehue


    I think those are all pretty sound predictions. I doubt we’ll get Willas as a POV. There’s entirely WAY too many POV’s at this point; the narrative can’t handle any more. And we know the prologue will have something to do with Jayne Westerling, so that means it’ll be more focused on the Westerlands or Riverlands. My best bet would be Sam meeting him.

  • Renly’s Peach,

    yes, Sam is the most likely of my 3 predictions. It is entirely likely that the two are already acquainted. The heir to Highgarden and the erstwhile heir to Horn Hill are almost certain to have met at some point in the past. After the initial ‘Tarly, I thought you were fighting Wildlings?’ conversation Willas & Sam have the potential to be a potent combination, judging by past comments about how shrewd her grandson is by the Queen of Thorns.

  • Yet again, Martin acting like the narrative he writes is somehow out of his hands. Meanwhile, Irri and Daenerys going at it is tooootally a necessary part of the story.

  • I saw this articles before there were comments, and could have bet they would start withing minutes with complaing why he is at festivals and not writing. Do you have nothing better to do that ask such pointless and stupid questions? It’s what authors bloody do. All of them. It’s part of their job. Publishers force them do attend events like this, sometimes attending them might even be part of contracts with publishers. I hope he takes all the time he needs, years if necessary, as long as the result is a good book. I want the next book two, but hey, I have stuff I can do until then. Unlike some people …

  • King Varys,

    If that’s meant for me then I’m certainly not complaining. I was just paraphrasing what GRRM has said whenever he’s been asked about this.

  • Athelstan,

    It was not meant for your, but for above and below. Your comment was interesting and to the point ;-) I also heard him say the same. He regrets not having more time. This is what comes with fame for authors. He’s not all that happy about it, so it makes me all the angrier people actually blame him for that.

  • King Varys:
    I want the next book two, but hey, I have stuff I can do until then.

    Like chastising disgruntled anonymous fantasy lit fans on the Intertubez?

  • Michael Tschuertz:
    GRRM should know the $200m movie is not going to happen.
    No Studio would do a rated R movie that big.

    It can easily be PG-13. All they have to do is leave out the pointless, unnecssary sex scenes.

    It would be interesting after the show completes filming season 6, which direction HBO decides to go; to remain a tv show or become a major motion picture. Perhaps even a trilogy of with Robert Rebellion thrown in.

    Due to budgetary reasons, I’m certain show won’t go beyond 7 seasons, so the decision will have to be made soon after season 6 filming ends.

  • Michael Tschuertz:
    GRRM should know the $200m movie is not going to happen.
    No Studio would do a rated R movie that big.

    For a show with the huge worldwide fan base that GOT has, then maybe.

    That said, I don’t expect it to happen and it is probably wishful thinking. Has HBO ever made a feature movie for theaters? Doesn’t seem to fit their business model.

  • shk12344: It can easily be PG-13. All they have to do is leave out the pointless, unnecssary sex scenes.

    It would be interesting after the show completes filming season 6, which direction HBO decides to go; to remain a tv show or become a major motion picture. Perhaps even a trilogy of with Robert Rebellion thrown in.

    Due to budgetary reasons, I’m certain show won’t go beyond 7 seasons, so the decision will have to be made soon after season 6 filming ends.

    I don’t think that scenes of torture, cannibalism, burning people alive, flaying people, shoving swords through their faces, cut body parts and mutilated bodies etc. could work with a PG-13 rating. Just sayin’.

    In addition to this, the language would have to be changed… a lot. You’d have to hope that Sansa, Bran, Hodor and maybe Dany and Brienne (though with show Brienne, you never know) are the only people who ever get to speak, otherwise…

  • I have one question.

    Out of all the interviews and appearances at geek conventions, etc., why has no one asked GRRM or Dan and Dave whether or not the Greyjoy brother(s) have been cast (or more broadly, whether or not the Iron Islands storyline is going anywhere)? I’d like to know, either way…

  • Probably right about no studio financing a 200 million dollar R rated film… But if they did. I would see that shit like 8 times. I bet a lot of other nerds would too

  • The article says the entire Q&A is available online but in fact it has been cut by 20 minutes. My son was at the Edinburgh interview and asked the question about why the sexuality of the characters is only hinted at in the books but is made much more explicit in the TV series, and this elicited Martin’s long answer about gay sex which was all over the mainstream press yesterday. But the question and the answer have disappeared from the BBC download. He’s very disappointed but I’m wondering why they’d remove the answer when it got such publicity?

  • I enjoy seeing people who have never written a word anyone ever wants to pay to read tell a living legend how he should approach his writing. It’s always enlightening and spot-on.

  • House baratheon:
    Probably right about no studio financing a 200 million dollar R rated film… But if they did. I would see that shit like 8 times. I bet a lot of other nerds would too

    OF COURSE HBO would fork over $200 million to make an R-rated movie with the rabid fan base of GAME OF THRONES. Anyone who says they wouldn’t is blinding themselves to silly fan theories about the potential of GOT movies.

    The real question is… would they feel the need? And would they see it as damaging the brand or elevating it? And would a movie increase home video sales of GAME OF THRONES the TV show? These are all reasonable questions any executive would ask.

    The answer? Shrug. We’ll see in two seasons. If the show is still hot going into its final season, then HELL YES they would spend $200 million to make a movie. Or $600 million to make 3.

  • Athelstan,

    Just to point out that GRRM ruled out a new POV in The Winds of Winter. We may get one or several new POVs in A Dream of Spring, although I doubt it. Most likely we will meet Willas through Sam.

  • In my opinion, he is starting to distance himself from the show. The first thing he said at this was when you ask questions I prefer questions about the books and not the show, because the books are my thing, so don’t ask me who they are casting for season 5 for example.

  • GeekFurious,

    It doesn’t take a professional writer to observe and critique Martin’s procrastination and poor writing habits. His lack of embracing technology, like every other successful writer, and every other successful professional in almost any field, is not a thing to excuse.

    The Greeks would have loved watching Martin’s career unfold. A beloved artist writes half of a terrific story set to be a classic, gets mired down in procrastination and hubris and gluttony and greed, loses his creative abilities “Sibyl Vane style” as a superior adaptation of the story overtakes him.

  • His lack of embracing technology, like every other successful writer

    Cormac McCarthy uses an Olivetti typewriter.
    Robert Rankin hand-writes his novels in school exercise books in longhand.
    Quentin Tarantino writes his first draft screenplays with a pen.
    Joyce Carol Oates also writes her books in longhand.
    Neil Gaiman uses a word processor for his screenplays, but longhand for his novels.
    Tom Wolfe used a typewriter, but got tired of trying to find the replacement parts so switched to longhand.

    I believe these all qualify as successful writers.