Author Ty Franck (The Expanse) talks about working with George R.R. Martin


Author Ty Franck comprises one-half of a writing team working under the pen name, James S.A. Corey. Together with his writing partner Daniel Abraham, he writes The Expanse, a popular series of science fiction novels. SyFy recently turned those books into a TV show, which will return for a 13-episode second season next year.

Franck also happens to be one of George R.R. Martin’s former assistants. He recently talked about the author’s process with Light Speed Magazine.

Ty Franck (left) and Daniel Abraham (right). Image:


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Franck was introduced to Martin via a writing group through a mutual friend named Melinda. Apparently, Martin needed to hire someone to be his assistant and run his multimedia sites. Franck notes that, because Martin has never really had a real job (besides being a college professor for two years), there really wasn’t an interview process:

"He said, “So, Melinda says I should hire you.” And I said, “Yes, and here’s why,” and laid out what I could do for him. The next day I was there at his office setting up his new systems. It was very informal."

Franck goes on to dispel the myth that Martin is still writing the A Song of Ice and Fire novels on an old DOS computer with WordStar…sort of:

"Well, he doesn’t actually write on an old DOS computer. He did write on an old DOS computer, and then it died. Actually, I built him the computer he writes on now, which is a state-of-the-art machine running DOS and WordStar 4.0."

He does, however, confirm that Martin’s new computer does not have internet access. When you’re writing one of the most anticipated novels in recent history, you can’t really take the chance of getting a virus or worry about being hacked.

Franck also talks about Martin’s abilities as a mentor. He hasn’t gotten much writing advice from Martin, but the author has been invaluable in other ways:

"No, actually, the ways in which George was a really great mentor were on the business side. George has worked in the writing world, in TV, and in novels, and in feature production. He’s done that for thirty or forty years, so on the business side, it was really great to be able to ask him, “Here’s what they’re offering. Here’s what the contract looks like. If I get to do this, what’s that going to look like when I get there?” He has enormous stores of experience on that stuff. On that side, he really was a great mentor."

But despite their working relationship, Franck and Martin have very different ideas about how to go about writing a book. “He’s clearly one of the top writers in the field,” Franck said of Martin, “but how you get to putting words on paper — sort of the pre-production process — he and I work very differently.”

"[H]e is much more of a sit down at the keyboard, wait for the muse to strike, and bang out whatever chapter is sort of banging around in your head at that time. That works for him; he’s able to produce work, so more power to him, but that just seems like a really inefficient way to get a story out, from my perspective. For me as a writer, I could not do that. I have to know where I am going, and I have to know what the next chapters are about so I can start layering and foreshadowing and all the other stuff that you want to do. He’s much more comfortable rewriting chapters over and over and over and over again than I am."

Authors like Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) and Diana Gabaldon (Outlander) have also compared their own writing styles to Martin’s. Anyway, Franck is seeing his own success now. It’ll be interesting to see if The Expanse, both the books and the show, have the staying power of A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones.