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!
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.