When George R.R. Martin explained why The Winds of Winter is taking so long to write


Back in 2019, not long before the pandemic shut down all travel for a while, A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin traveled to Chicago to receive the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, which honors the creators of “a significant work or body of work that has enhanced the public’s awareness of the written word,” which Martin’s work has definitely done. While he was there, he gave a couple of interviews, including to The Chicago Tribune’s John Kass.

It’s a great interview where Martin goes into detail about Game of Thrones, his writing process, and why he’s taking so long to finish The Winds of Winter, the long-awaited sixth book in his A Song of Ice and Fire novel series. You can listen to the full interview at WGN Radio. Below, we’ll hit some of the highlights.

George R.R. Martin: “I really have to get Winds done”

Kass asked about a wide range of topics, starting with how Martin feels about having millions of fans out there eager to read Winds. Martin says it’s a “mixed blessing.” For many writers, Martin explains, the problem is getting noticed at all. He has a very different issue:

"I do indeed have millions of people waiting for this book to come out, which is very gratifying…but some of them are extremely impatient and some of them are full of their own ideas about the fates of the various characters. I’m glad they can get so emotionally involved with these characters, but sometimes I yearn for the days when I could just work in quiet obscurity…but those days are gone for me, I’m afraid. This is the reality of my life now."

Indeed it is. And remember: Martin is doing more than just writing Winds. He’s also working on more stories in his Dunk and Egg novellas as well as working on another Fire & Blood book. On TV, he’s executive producing an HBO adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor Who Fears Death, and he consults on Game of Thrones spinoff shows like House of the Dragon and A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. Working in quiet obscurity is no longer an option.

“The success of the show and the success of other things has injected a lot of other aspects into my life,” Martin said. “So sometimes I lay in bed at night and I’m not thinking about…Westeros. I’m thinking about some other problem I’m having, one of the other shows I’m involved with, or a deadline on an anthology I’m editing, or something that’s happening with the non-profit organization that I started. All of these other things are filling my head and that is one of the thing’s that’s delayed me. I really have to get Winds done. I have to put myself on a state where I’m not being distracted by other stuff, and that period of time at night is filled with the voices of Tyrion Lannister and Arya Stark and the other fictional characters who live inside of me.”

"If my writing is going well, and I’m really ‘in Westeros,’ it does haunt me day and night. I’m laying there in bed, I’m waiting to go to sleep, the lights are out, and the scenes that I’m gonna write tomorrow are in my head. Or maybe the scenes I’m gonna write next week, or maybe the scenes from a different chapter…I can’t control it, but something starts filling my head and the characters start coming alive, and I start hearing snatches of dialogue, and I drift to sleep with Westeros and Ice and Fire in my head, haunting me."

There are some writers who can work on projects wherever they are, and whatever else happens to be going on in their lives at the time. Martin is not one of those writers. Either he’s absorbed with writing A Song of Ice and Fire, or he’s absorbed with something else.

“I do sometimes wish [this success] had happened to me 30 years ago, rather than happening to me at my age, because it does kind of wear me out sometimes,” said Martin, who was 71 at the time; he’s now 75. “But I still have a fair amount of energy and I still get a fair amount done.”

What does George R.R. Martin think of the backlash to Game of Thrones season 8? “I’m not gonna comment on that”

Finally, Kass asked Martin about the backlash to the final season of Game of Thrones, coming as close as anyone I’ve heard in an interview to outright saying he didn’t like season 8, and criticizing showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss for botching the big finish. “I’m not gonna comment on that,” Martin said. “They’re two different forms of the same story. When I finish my books, read ’em. But other than that, that’s not something I want to get into.”

This interview was given four years ago, and The Winds of Winter still has not materialized. Martin gave another small update the other week:

Next. George R.R. Martin knows The Winds of Winter is late—”You guys don’t have to pester me about it”. dark

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