George R.R. Martin Talks Taking GoT From the Page to the Screen



HBO: Game of Thrones has found the same great success as a TV show that it already had as a book series. What's it like see your story told in two places?

GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: We really have two audiences now, which is a unique challenge for a TV show. We have the viewers who are coming to the TV show without any knowledge of the books. And we have the readers, who have read the books, many times in many cases. Sometimes those two audiences give very different reactions to the same things. For the viewers experiencing it for the first time, it's just a matter of, "Is it exciting? Is it involving?" The readers care about those things, too, but they're also saying, "Well, this is how it was in the books ..."

HBO: You wrote the script for the episode "Blackwater," which aired recently -- was it difficult for you to translate your vision from the books onto the screen?

GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: It's very difficult. Prose and film have different techniques and weapons that they use. In a book, I have internal monologue and can give you access to a character's thoughts. He can tell a lie, but you're in his head, so you know he's lying. While you're watching on the screen, you're just hearing what he's saying -- the actor has to sell it with his eyes and the set of his mouth. And great actors can do that. Each of these mediums has its own strengths and weaknesses, and when you're moving from one to the other, it's always a challenge. If you look at the Battle of the Blackwater in the books, it occupies seven or eight chapters, intercutting from three points of view. If you shot it as I wrote it in the book, it would cost $100 million and take two months to shoot.

HBO: And the entire story is so complex. When you're working on the books, how difficult is it to weigh and keep track of all your decisions?

GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: Sometimes I make the decisions wrongly. My process as a writer is not one of thoroughly outlining ahead of time, which can result in my muse leading me down blind alleys and dead ends. I write a chapter and it seems great in and of itself, but then I realize a month later or half a year later that I don't want to go down that street. So then I have to double back and rewrite and so forth. It's almost a subconscious thing -- when it's right, it feels right, and when it doesn't feel right, I keep niggling at it until it does.

HBO: In the season finale, one of everyone's favorite characters, Tyrion Lannister, finds himself in a miserable position. Was it hard for you to smack him down so quickly after his moment of triumph?

GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: Well, you know, you don't want to make it too easy for the characters. If the character just goes from success to success, then you don't have much of a story, now do you? But I guess it's one of my trademarks as an author to always ask the question, "OK, what next?" We see a lot of books and movies and television shows, where you see some situation come up and then the resolution of it along pretty traditional -- or even stereotypical -- lines. That's great, but what happens next? We see this with Theon and taking Winterfell. "OK, Theon, you very cleverly tricked the Starks. Singers will sing of this for hundreds of years ... What's next? How do you hang onto this?" That question, on a whole bunch of levels, has always fascinated me, and there's a lot of that in "A Song of Ice and Fire."

HBO: One final question on behalf of all your fans -- how's the next book coming?

GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: I'm working on that, and a number of "Ice and Fire" related things at the same time. Not only "The Winds of Winter," which is Book 6, but we're also coming out with a big concordance called "The World of Ice and Fire," which is about the whole history of Westeros and will be lavishly illustrated. So I've been filling in some of the histories of the kings who ruled 200 years ago or 500 years ago. We've also been doing a map book, and I'm working on a new novella about Dunk and Egg, the prequel series I have. It's a slow process the way I write, especially books of this size that are as large and complex as they are. It's still a slow process. I am aware of the TV series moving along behind me like a giant locomotive, and I know I need to lay the track more quickly, perhaps, because the locomotive is soon going to be bearing down on me. The last thing I want is for the TV series to catch up with me. I've got a considerable headstart, but production is moving faster than I can write. I'm hoping that we'll finish the story at about the same time... we'll see.