Nerdette

George R.R. Martin Still Hangs Out In Westeros

“When it’s going well, I live in Westeros,” the Game of Thrones author said on Nerdette podcast. He talks about his upcoming books and the future of fantasy. Minesh Bacrania/Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House

Greta Johnsen
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George R.R. Martin is the author of A Song of Ice and Fire, the acclaimed book series that was adapted into the uber-popular HBO show Game of Thrones.

These days, he’s in the midst of writing the final two novels in that series.

Before he sat down with Nerdette’s Greta Johnsen earlier this month, his team told us that he couldn’t answer the question on everyone’s mind (so, like, when’s the next book coming out?) so we didn’t ask. 

But Martin did tell us how writing is going, how he’s managing fan expectations and what he expects for the future of fantasy TV. (Plus, we have a super-special announcement at the end of the interview.)

On writing the next chapters of A Song of Ice and Fire

Greta Johnsen: How much time do you spend in Westeros these days?

George R.R. Martin: That’s an interesting question, and it really varies and it depends on what I’m doing. But when I’m actively writing, when it’s really going well — and it doesn’t always go well by any means, there are good days and bad days, there are good months and bad months — but when it’s going well, I live in Westeros. I fall through the computer. I wake up thinking of, you know, Tyrion and Arya or Aegon the Conqueror, whoever I’m writing about, and I go to sleep at night thinking about them. When I’m driving around, I think about them. And it just fills my life.

But in order to achieve this almost Zen state of obsession, I have to push away real life. There are other writers who write four pages a day, they write in hotels, they write on airplanes, they write everywhere. I’ve never been one of those writers. I need to have the whole day just to write, nothing else on my calendar. And it’s an odd irony that the very success of Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire — the popularity of these books has made it harder for me to write these books because the number of interruptions and distractions and other things have increased, doubled and tripled and increased tenfold and a hundredfold.

Johnsen: Essentially what you’re saying is when you spend days, for example, doing interviews with nerdy podcasts, you’re not able to write.

Martin: [Laughs] That’s right. I’m not writing today. I’m here in Chicago. When I’m back home in Santa Fe, I will be pushing everything and writing, yes. And I know some of my readers and fans are very impatient about that.

They wish I was like the other writers, like Stephen King, who I talked to once on a show we did together about this very thing. And he’s one of those guys who writes six pages a day come hell or high water, or his cat just got run over or whatever happens, Stephen King writes his six pages a day. I wish I could be like that, but I can’t. I can’t.

Johnsen: How are you managing fan expectations these days?

Martin: I don’t think I do manage them.

Johnsen: What do you mean by that?

Martin: I’ve learned to live with them. … At a certain point, I gave up trying to manage fan expectations. I just said, well you know, “I’m writing it. It’ll be done when it’s done.” Some days I have good days and I write five, six pages. That’s a great day for me. Some days I struggle and barely get half a page done. Some days I go in and I look at what I wrote last week and say, “This is all terrible!” And I rip it up and start all over again.

On upcoming TV adaptations of other fantasy classics, like His Dark Materials and Lord of the Rings

Martin: If one or two of them succeed, television will be transformed. Then I think fantasy will become a genre of television, just like cop shows and lawyer shows.

Johnsen: I love that.

Martin: You never see, “Oh a cop show? We already have a cop show. We can’t do that!” It’s always, “A cop show! Yeah, we’ll put on another cop show.” And as a fantasy reader — someone who has read many of these works and loves these works — that’s the outcome I would like to see.

The danger of course is that, if all of these shows fail for one reason or another, then I think television, which is run by success, will back off from fantasy, and say, “Oh no, Game of Thrones was a freakish, one of a kind occurrence. And it can’t be duplicated so we won’t do it anymore.” And obviously I don’t want that to happen.

On his favorite characters from the Game of Thrones TV show

Martin: I mean, it’s hard to pick one. They’re all my children. You know, do you have a favorite child? I don’t know.

Johnsen: [Laughs] Right.

Martin: Tyrion Lannister is certainly a character that I’ve always loved writing.

Johnsen: Well, and Peter Dinklage did such an amazing job.

Martin: Peter Dinklage is amazing. He’s won four Emmys himself as best supporting actor. He’s great.

But also the kids were marvelous. I mean, Maisie Williams as Arya and Sophie Turner as Sansa and Isaac [Hempstead Wright] as Bran, they were incredible. And even more so because they came out of nowhere. Nina Gold, our casting director, found them doing, like, school plays.

Aaaand one more thing ...

Martin: Hi, I’m George R.R. Martin. And you should listen to Nerdette Recaps His Dark Materials with Peter Sagal.

This interview was lightly edited for clarity and brevity. Click the play button above to hear the full episode, which was produced and edited by producer Justin Bull.