Q: What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?
GRRM: Characters. Mind you, I don’t discount the importance of style and plot and the other ingredients of fiction, but for me, the people will always be the heart of the matter. I want my characters to be as real to my readers as the guy next door… but more interesting.
Q: Now that many purists and aficionados consider you one of the best fantasy authors in the world and now that you have hit number 1 on the NYT bestseller list, is there added pressure when it comes down to writing a new addition to the series?
GRRM: Sure. Some of the reviews have been very flattering, but the series is not finished yet. The end needs to be as strong as the beginning.
Q: What would you say was the hardest part of the entire process involved in the writing of the A Song of Ice and Fire? Each new addition reveals yet more depth to a series which has shown just how rich and complex it truly is.
GRRM: The hardest part is keeping it all straight. I do have notes, of course, but not as many as you might think. Most of it is in my head… somewhere…
Q: Is a World Fantasy Award something you covet?
GRRM: “Covet?” No. I’ve won a World Fantasy Award, as it happens, for my werewolf novella “The Skin Trade.” If I were to win another for A Song of Ice and Fire, I’m sure that I’d be very pleased… but in general, I do not attach as much importance to juried awards like the WFA as to do the Hugo, a popular award with a much broader base.
Q: What extensive research did the writing of the A song of Ice and Fire entail?
GRRM: I’ve filled up several bookcases with books about medieval history. Feasts and fools and tournaments, warfare and women, various popular histories of the Hundred Years War, the Crusades, the Albigensian Crusade, the Wars of the Roses, etc. You can’t read too much. You never know what information you may need.
Q: Honestly, do you believe that the fantasy genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.
GRRM: There’s still resistance, but it seems to me that J.R.R. Tolkien is finally being accepted into the canon, however grudgingly, and that creates hope for the rest of us. In the end, though, only time will tell. Will today’s bestselling fantasies still be read twenty years from now? Fifty? One hundred?
Q: Have the plotlines diverged much since you began writing the series, or did you have the entire plot more or less figured out from the very beginning? Were any characters added or further fleshed out beyond your original intention? Have you made any changes to your initial plans during the course of the writing of the series?
GRRM: I won’t say the plotlines have diverged, but the process of getting from here to there has taken more time and more pages than I initially estimated… perhaps because I found the places and people I encountered along the way so interesting. The secondary and tertiary characters are largely to blame, the spearcarriers who keep insisting that they’re human too, when all I want them to do is stand there and be quiet and hold that spear. Yes, some of my initial plans have changed along the way. If they hadn’t, I would just be connecting the dots, and that would drive me mad. Some writers are architects and some are gardeners, and I am in the second camp. The tale takes on a life of its own in the writing.
Q: Is a series like A Song of Ice and Fire something you’ve always yearned to write, or was it something you came up with in the latter part of your writing career?
GRRM: I’ve always loved fantasy, since I first encountered Robert E. Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien in my high school days. I was writing sword & sorcery even in my fanzine days in the 60s, along with SF and horror and superhero yarns. Truth is, I like all the flavors of fantastic fiction, and for me it has never been a big deal to move from one genre to another.
Q: How would you like to be remembered as an author? What is the legacy you’ll leave behind?
GRRM: Hell, all writers dream of immortality, of being remembered beside Homer and Shakespeare and Dickens in the storytellers’ pantheon. That’s a determination that only posterity can make, however, and there’s no point in dwelling on it. All you can do is try to write the best books that you possibly can, one page at a time.
Q: Do you already have plans for another fantasy series following the completion of A Song of Ice and Fire?
GRRM: I don’t know what I will do after Ice and Fire. Maybe fantasy, maybe SF, maybe horror… maybe something new entirely. I still have volumes to write and years to go, after all, and there’s no telling where I will be by the time the series is complete, or what I will feel like writing.
Q: What is your involvement with the ASOIAF roleplaying game supplements? Are Guardians of Order getting additional new information from you for the supplements?
GRRM: I did provide GoO with some material from my notes, yes… as I did with Fantasy Flight. In each case, however, I warned them that nothing is actually canon until it appears in the books. I reserve the right to change my mind, and I do not want to tie my own hands because of something in one of the games.
For the most part, my role in the game development has been that of a consultant. I’d like to be more involved, but I just don’t have the time.
Q: Is there any particular piece of worldbuilding that you are especially proud of?
GRRM: I like the Wall. So far as I know, it’s unique in fantasy.
Q: I read an interview in which you said once that you didn’t enjoy writing as much as you enjoyed “having written.”
GRRM: Writing is hard.
Q: When and where will the next “Dunk & Egg” story be published? Does it have a title yet?
GRRM: Not as yet. The story is three-quarters done, but I haven’t found a title I really like. I’m not sure when I will finish the novella at this juncture, and less sure where it will be published, now that the LEGENDS anthologies are defunct. (I have had plenty of offers, mind you, just haven’t made up my mind)
Q: If you have read their works, I’m curious to know your thoughts about fellow authors such as Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Steven Erikson and R. Scott Bakker.
GRRM: I prefer not to comment about other authors, except when I review a specific book for my website, or from time to time when blurbing a new writer. I do believe in giving talented newcomers a leg up wherever possible. This is a tough game, and a lot of very fine writers do not have the readership that they deserve. Robert A. Heinlein once said that you can never pay back the people who helped you when you started, you can only pay forward.
Q: And last but not least, as you no doubt expected, what is the current progress report with A DANCE WITH DRAGONS? Anything you wish to share with your readers, just to whet their appetite?
GRRM: If their appetites were any more whetted, they’d tear me to shreds. Can’t you hear that gnashing of teeth?
Interview by Patrick