On A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Martin originally thought that A Song of Ice and Fire would be a trilogy – A Game of Thrones, A Dance for Dragons and The Winds of Winter – but “the tale grew in the telling” as he started creating secondary characters and subplots. There are five published volumes in the series so far and Martin referred to there being the “last two books” to come.
- After dispersing many of the main characters throughout his fantasy world, Martin is now starting to bring them back together, which he says “allows more flexibility for killing them off”!
- Martin noted that, though he is often criticised for the adult roles his young characters such as Daenerys Targaryen are forced to take on, many of our real world customs still require children to make adult choices, such as Catholic confirmation. He also explained that the younger characters had to be aged up for the “Game of Thrones” TV series “for reasons of modern sensibilities and law”.
- Asked if he’s a psychopath to have created such a brutal world, Martin said that conflicts makes the story more interesting as without it his characters would all get on and there’d be no story. Martin confessed: “I’ve always had a soft spot for cripples, bastards and broken things. Their angst makes for more conflict in the story.” He described all of the characters in A Song of Ice and Fire as “struggling to find their place in life”, which he believes creates a better plot.
- Martin’s favourite castle in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire is Winterfell because it’s where the story began. He said that he didn’t base it on a real castle and described it as “more like a town” than a castle, pointing out that all of his castles are bigger than real ones. He also picked out Pyke, the home of the Greyjoy family on the Iron Islands, as another favourite. The remote castle is based on one or two Scottish castles.
- When choosing the names for his characters, Martin said he wanted “the flavor of medieval England”. To achieve this, he took some real names from history and tweaked them, for example changing Edward to Eddard. He also collects baby naming books from different countries for inspiration. He spoke about how important naming a character is to him, saying: “I wait for the name that sounds right and can’t write the character until then”.
On writing in general:
- Martin started creating stories as a child by inventing back stories for his toys, which even then included torture! He also confessed that he “never finished stories” when he was younger because he had a perfect idea of what they should be in his head and often gave up when his writing didn’t live up to this ideal.
- Martin daydreams a lot about his characters and says that he doesn’t know how he creates the solutions for his characters' dilemmas, they often just come to him after a while. He explained: “Writing is weird, man. I don’t write with my rational brain.” He also said that a positive of having so many characters to write about is that, if he messes up one storyline or comes to a dead end, he can switch to another until he works out a resolution.
- If he could change something about his writing career, Martin said he would have “worn a disguise” for the “Game of Thrones” publicity campaigns as he has “mixed feelings” about being a celebrity and would rather be a writer that no one recognises. He said: “I’d be anonymous, I’d be J D Salinger”, then quickly changed his mind, adding: “No I wouldn’t be J D Salinger, I’d want the books to be published!”
- He described writing as “a career of ups and downs”, comparing his great success now to previous experiences of doing signings at malls where hardly anyone turned up. Despite this, he thinks “a real writer will write whether their work sells or not”.