George R.R. Martin on ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 2, Real-World Influences, and Book 6 (‘The Winds of Winter’)
I recently had the chance to interview one of my favorite authors, George R.R. Martin, about his amaziing A Song of Ice and Fire books. We spoke on the phone for about 45 minutes in January, and I was able to pick his brain about the real-world inspirations behind his novels as well as what to expect in season two of HBO’s Game of Thrones series and the upcoming sixth book, The Winds of Winter.
Click here to read the full George R.R. Martin interview.
Below are a few excerpts from our conversation:
George R.R. Martin on what to expect in Book 6, The Winds of Winter:
“What lies really north in my books [The Land of Always Winter]—we haven’t explored that yet, but we will in the last two books.”
“There were a lot of cliffhangers at the end of A Dance with Dragons. Those will be resolved very early. I’m going to open with the two big battles that I was building up to, the battle in the ice and the battle at Mereen—the battle of Slaver’s Bay. And then take it from there.”
On how long he’s known who lives and who dies:
“I knew almost right from the beginning. I know the major beats of the story and who’s going to live and who’s going to die—the ultimate end of all the major characters … For some minor characters I may make it up as I’m writing. So, if a major character is going to battle with his six friends, I don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen to all six friends … But the major players and the major lives or deaths or life-changing events have all been planned from the beginning.”
On finishing the series:
“I’m starting to see [the light at the end of the tunnel], but that’s still a very long tunnel. The last book was 1,500 pages in manuscript … Each of the next two will be at least as long, so that’s 3,000 more pages that I still have to write, and that’s a considerable amount of writing … I write one chapter at a time, once scene at a time, one sentence at a time, and don’t worry about the rest. Step by step, sooner or later, the journey will get me there.”
On Hadrian’s Wall in England as an influence for The Wall:
“I stared off to the north as dusk was settling and tried to imagine what it was like to be a Roman stationed on the wall when the wall was an active protection—when it was end of the Roman world, and you didn’t really know what was going to come over those hills or what was going to come out of the woods beyond that … That was a profound experience that stayed with me. It was over a decade later when I first began Ice and Fire, and I still had that vision and that sense of, ‘I’d like to write a story about the people guarding the end of the world.’”
On Iceland and its similarity to Beyond the Wall:
“Beyond the Wall is considerably larger than Iceland—probably larger than Greenland. The area closest to my Wall is densely forested, so in that sense it’s more like Canada—Hudson’s Bay or the Canadian forests just north of Michigan. And then as you get further and further north, it changes. You get into tundra and ice fields and it becomes more of an arctic environment. You have plains on one side and a very high range of mountains on the other … like the Himalayas.”
On his inspiration for the Doom of Valyria:
“A particular real-world influence on the Doom of Valyria [was] the volcanic eruptions that destroyed the Pink and White Terraces [in New Zealand]. They were … these beautiful stone terraces where volcanic hot springs water would flow out from the top … and as the water flowed from one pool to another down the side of this mountain, it would cool so the terraces at the top had really hot pools, and at the bottom had warm pools … The whole area was volcanic. One day it just all exploded—the entire area went up … So I took [that] and came up with Valyria—with magic thrown in.”
On the inspiration for Tyrion’s chain boom, employed in season 2, episode 9, the Battle of the Blackwater, for which Martin wrote the screenplay:
“[Constantinople] was one of the inspirations. Chain booms have been used a number of times in history and in battles for various purposes. So, that was part of the inspiration. Of course, there’s different ways you can use a boom like that. You can raise it early on to close off the harbor—or the river in this case—so ships actually can’t get in. But that wasn’t Tyrion’s plan. (Minor Spoiler) What Tyrion wanted to do was to lure in as much of Stannis’ fleet as he could, and then raise the chain so they couldn’t get back out when he unleashed the wildfire on them.”
On his inspiration for wildfire, also employed in the Battle of the Blackwater:
“Wildfire is my magical version of Greek fire—to go back to the Constantinople reference. Wildfire is Greek fire times ten. It’s Greek fire but it’s worse than Greek fire, and it’s got a little magical element to it. It’s really nasty stuff, and it burns with green flames, which is a nice pyrotechnical effect. Not sure we’ll get that into the show, but I’ll look forward to seeing it. I hope they do. “
The full George R.R. Martin interview is much longer. Click the link to read it!
So 2011 is finally here, but before I put 2010 completely behind me, I didn’t want to let the opportunity pass to take a few minutes to reflect on the year that was. In a nutshell: Last year began badly but ended well, and in-between there were many little trials and triumphs.
The story of 2010 really begins with the end of 2009. I’ll never forget that Christmas Eve, alone in my living room watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” after Penny and the kids had gone to sleep. The mysterious back and abdominal pain that had plagued me all through 2006 and 2007 had returned, and it was joined by a new and even more disabling pain in my arms and wrists. I had to take an extended leave from work, and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to return, let alone live a normal life. The doctors I saw seemed to have no clue. Things felt very bleak, and “It’s a Wonderful Life” (cheesy though it is) stirred up all kinds of emotions in me about my life, my personal goals, and what would happen to my family if I didn’t get better. So it was a difficult time for me.
I muddled through the early part of the year at home and work, just tryintg to “get by,” and I bounced from doctor to doctor at Lahey Clinic and Tufts Medical Center without any relief. They threw all kinds of potential diagnoses at me, a couple of them pretty scary, and I rang up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. But there was nothing definitive and no real prescriptive course for how I could get better.
But then I went for another opinion, this time at Massachusetts General Hospital, and things quickly and thankfully began to turn around.
Within weeks, MGH had gotten to the bottom of many of the problems I’ve had for years. Two badly misaligned joints—the sacrum and the pubic symphysis, if you’re at all interested—were the original cause of my lower body pain, and could be easily fixed. (Somehow a legion of doctors, including orthopedists and osteopaths who really should have known better, had missed this over the years.) The other half of the equation was Thoracic Outlet Syndrome—basically some nerve compression around my shoulders—which accounted for much of the arm and wrist pain. It was brought on by my body overcompensating in other areas for years and years.
Since September of 2010 I’ve been going to physical therapy twice a week and doing stretching and strengthening exercises at home, and I’m already feeling much better. But because I was compensating for pain all over my body caused by the misaligned joints, it’s now a longer slog toward getting completely better than it would have been if this had all been discovered years ago, as it should have been. It’s a great start, though, and for the first time in a while I’m actually hopeful. It feels good.
Meanwhile, the world turns, the kids keep growing, and life goes on. Here are some of the highlights of 2010:
I guess you could call 2010 the “Year of the Tornado” for Ethan. My three-year-old has fallen in love with wild weather. Tornados, specifically, but lightning storms and hurricanes, too—any kind of extreme natural phenomenon, really.
It took me three weekends and two failed attempts, but I somehow built a 144-square-foot outdoor movie screen for the back yard and my third annual Outdoor Movie Night. This year we screened “The Princess Bride” with about 30 friends. It was awesome, but I have even bigger plans for 2011.
Shortly after I got into the physical therapy program at MGH, I was able to start working, slowly, on the second draft of my novel. It still needs a lot of work, but that’s another area where I have bigger plans in 2011.
Ethan started pre-school three days a week, and he loves it.
I took the kids to the family cabin in Maine, by myself, for the first time while Penny was at a conference in Texas. I love it up there. Happy to say the kids do, too.
We vacationed at a rental house near Balch Lake, New Hampshire, over the Fourth of July, with Penny’s parents. Great time. Ethan learned to fish.
I made it to two Patriots game this year, both wins. My first Monday Night Football game: Patriots 45, Jets 3.
We took the kids to their first hockey game, a victory by my beloved Merrimack Warriors!
We totally gutted our basement and added 500 square feet of finished living space: a TV room, play room, laundry room, bathroom, and office.
On the career front, I didn’t do much writing, but one article that I co-authored was picked up for syndication by several national media outlets, including Yahoo, which put it on its homepage for a day. It was a fun story to write, too.
The year ended with a trip to upstate New York to visit family and see Niagara Falls. Ethan’s excitement alone was worth the nine-hour drive.
A few other odds and ends:
The best book I read this year was “In the Woods” by Tana French (followed closely by French’s “The Likeness” and “Faithful Place”). Other enjoyable books: “The Passage” by Justin Cronin; “The Lost City of Z” by David Grann; “The Monster of Florence” by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi; “World Made by Hand” by James Howard Kunstler; “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss; and “Hotel Pastis” and “A Good Year” by Peter Mayle. I also finished re-reading Tad Williams’ “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn,” which has to be one of the top five epic fantasy series ever written.
It’s hard to believe, but I only got the movie theater twice in 2010, and that was to see “Avatar” and the Disney movie “Tangled” with Ethan and his cousins. Best movie I saw on DVD was “The Kids Are All Right.”
Favorite TV show: “The Walking Dead” on AMC. Also good: “Fringe,” “Castle,” “Life Unexpected,” and “Modern Family.”
And I think that’s a wrap on 2010! Here’s to a healthy, happy, and productive 2011.
Every year around this time I like to make a list of the things—movies, TV shows, books, events, et cetera—that I’m most looking forward to in the year ahead. It’s then fun to look back a year later and see if those things were worthy of my anticipation.
In no particular order, this year’s list includes:
New TV shows: Or more specifically one new TV show from Joss “Buffy/Angel/Firefly” Whedon! Premiering February 13, Whedon’s Dollhouse stars Eliza Dushku (from Buffy), Amy Acker (from Angel), and that guy from BSG who plays Helo. Production squabbles with Fox aside, the concept is a cool one and I have the utmost faith in Joss. So this is something I’m cautiously optimistic about.
New movies: My three most anticipated movies of 2009 are Terminator: Salvation, Harry Potter 6, and the new JJ Abrams’ re-imagining of Star Trek. Normally I couldn’t care less about Trek (I’m more of Galaxy Quest kind of guy), but JJ is just a notch behind Joss Whedon on my must-see list, and that trailer looks incredible.
New Fiction: Three of my favorite genre authors have new work coming out in 2009: David Anthony Durham’s The Other Lands (a follow-up to his beautiful fantasy debut, Acacia); George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons (book five in the Song of Ice and Fire series); and Tad Williams’s Shadowrise (the final volume in the Shadowmarch trilogy). I’m also somewhat guiltily anticipating the arrival of Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead, the first new Indy novel in a decade.
New Arrivals: Have I mentioned we’re having another baby? We’re currently calling him/her “Sprout” and he/she is due in August. Our little family is growing!
Family Milestones: Ethan’s 2nd birthday rolls around in March, and my 10-year wedding anniversary comes this September. Monumental events, all.
Year of the Rattlesnake: I make no promises, but things are looking good toward getting a playable demo—and maybe even the entire first chapter—for my always-in-progress adventure game Rise of the Hidden Sun: A ‘Rattlesnake’ Jake Dawson Adventure out the door before the end of the year.
And last but not least…
The Second Annual Outdoor Movie Night: Last summer’s first annual Outdoor Movie Night featured Raiders of the Lost Ark on a 20-foot screen in our back yard, and it was awesome. This year I’m aiming to make it bigger and better! More people, more food, and more cheesy ’80s movie goodness. I’m thinking either The Princess Bride, Back to the Future, or Ghostbusters on the big screen on a warm July night.
A year ago at this time I posted a list of 10 things I was looking forward to in 2008. Before I look ahead to 2009, I thought it would be fun to see how each of those things from 2008 turned out.
1. Ethan’s first birthday. This was as amazing and magical as I’d imagined. I’m looking forward to his second birthday with even more enthusiasm!
2. The New England Patriots Invitational Tournament. Also known as the NFL Playoffs, this one didn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped or expected. But ah well, 18-1 is almost as good as 19-0. Right? Nah, not really. Alas.
3. Getting healthy. Sadly, this one’s still a work in progress.
4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In a word: Awesome.
5. Easter Island. I did indeed make it to Easter Island last March, and it was a great experience. Lingering health issues were kind of a drag on the trip, though, and I would much rather have traveled there with Penny and Ethan than go solo like I did.
6. Spider-Man: Brand New Day. The Spidey comics went from monthly to three times a month and featured an all-new, all-not-married status quo for Peter Parker. And, by and large, it was a great year for the character. I’m still jazzed about the series as we head into year two of the new era.
7. Creating… something. Last year was to be the one where I finally made some headway on either Rise of the Hidden Sun or my young adult novel. I chose the novel and managed to get about 45,000 words into it before losing steam around Thanksgiving. So, not a success but not an out-and-out failure, either. A work in progress.
8. New TV shows. I was really looking forward to Jericho (returning from the dead) and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Jericho only lasted seven episodes but tied up most of the loose ends nicely, and Terminator started well, then got a bit spotty before coming on very strong here in season two. Here’s hoping for a season three pickup in 2009.
9. The Red Sox in Japan. Wow, I completely forgot this even happened. It was a neat little sideshow at the time but, ultimately, not all that big a deal. I’m more likely to remember the Sox losing game 7 of the ALCS than anything about their time in Japan.
10. Climbing a mountain. This finally happened in October during our vacation to Acadia National Park. It was a wimpy little mountain, but the views were spectacular and it felt grea to be back outdoors. Maybe 2009 will be the year where I finally get back into hiking the way I’d like to, though.
We rented Forgetting Sarah Marshall over the weekend. I don’t usually get too excited for Judd Apatow movies, but this one was written by and starred Jason Segal of How I Met Your Mother, and I was interested to see how it turned out. The verdict: Hilarious. Definitely worth renting. Highlights: Mila Kunis and Russell Brand. Lowlight: Jason Segal’s private parts in full-frontal HD. I’m going to have nightmares for weeks.
Other than the movie, we spent the bulk of the weekend raking and mulching several tons of wet leaves from our back yard. Note to future homeowners: A big yard is not necessarily a good thing. I learn this the hard way year after year after year.
I’m thisclose to buying a new computer, partly because my laptop is giving me hints that its days are numbered and partly because that same laptop won’t run any of the new adventure games I want to play (e.g., A Vampyre Story, Chronicles of Mystery: The Scorpio Ritual, Sinking Island, and The Abbey).
The only problem is that I hate and fear Windows Vista, because it won’t let me play any of my favorite old adventure games that I’ve spent entire weekends getting to run on XP. Sigh.
WordPress recently added poll functionality to blog posts. This is me testing it out to see how it works. Cast your vote today!
The good news: I’m currently 900 words ahead of my desired writing pace for the month. The bad news: I’ve offically reached the end of the outline I’ve been working from for the past few months. Everything between now and the end of the novel is basically a 50,000-word black hole. I literally do not know what happens next. Exciting but scary.
LOST will return in January. Just 70 days to go! I wish I could get excited for it, but I just can’t muster the enthusiasm yet.
This has been a great week for Boston sports, and tomorrow it gets better with Thursday night football at Foxborro! Something to look forward to.
HBO has greenlighted (greenlit?) a pilot for a TV version of George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” fantasy novels. If done right, this could reach Lord of the Rings levels of awesomeness.
It’s ironic that How I Met Your Mother is finally getting good ratings just as its quality seems to be taking a nosedive.
Driving home from work yesterday I discovered that two radio stations in the metro Boston area have already gone all-Christmas. I can’t take two months of “Little Saint Nick.”
Speaking of Christmas, Amazon now has a nifty feature that allows you to add stuff from any other website to your Amazon wish list. Penny came up with that idea like three years ago. If only we knew the right people, we coulda been rich!
I have fallen asleep on the couch watching each of the last four episodes of Fringe. How’s that for a ringing endorsement?
Fox is moving Terminator and Dollhouse to Friday nights this winter. Bye bye, Terminator and Dollhouse. We hardly knew ye.
Every World Series game should start in the sixth inning.
I still have a bunch of painkillers left over from my surgery last October. I’m saving them for election night.
Every time I ask Ethan where he wants to go for a walk, he tells me “Moon.” Maybe someday, kiddo.
With one more day to go, I’m 6,000 words behind on my monthly word count goal. I shouldn’t be blogging, but it’s so damn easy.
It’s too bad so few people are giving the new Amazing Spider-Man a try. It really is the best it’s been since Roger Stern’s run in the mid 1980s.
The best show on television this year? Chuck.
If I lived in California, I’d vote “no” on Proposition 8. What’s so bad about gay marriage?
This game looks phenomenal.
Ethan is dressing up as a dinosaur for Halloween. I’m going as a paleontologist.
Apparently Stephen Colbert will be bringing his unique brand of truthiness and justice for all to the pages of an upcoming issue of Amazing Spider-Man! From yesterday’s Hero Complex blog over at the LA Times:
Plenty of television comedy stars have hung with Spider-Man, but Stephen Colbert may be the first to swing with him. Colbert, the master parodist of Comedy Central, shares an eight-page adventure with the world-famous web-slinger in issue No. 573 of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” on sale October 15.
Nice. And just a day after my birthday, too!