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‘Game of Thrones’ author on fans, killing characters, Comic-Con July 8, 2011

Posted by Diana McCabe in Authors, News.
Tags: , ,

OK — here’s the first in my series of Comic-Con author interviews that I did for my news company — The San Diego Union-Tribune. I am posting them after they appear on the U-T Comic-Con site, which you should check out HERE!

"A Game of Thrones" author George R.R. Martin with actor Peter Dinklage on the HBO set. > Photo by Nick Briggs

Last month, “A Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin drew a crowd of 2,000 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, for a book signing that lasted six hours. “That was about 1,800 more than I expected,” Martin says, a bit incredulous.

The turnout left him wondering, “If 2,000 showed up in Slovenia, what’s it going to be like at Comic-Con?”

It’s likely to be a madhouse. The veteran author has lots of hard-core fans. He’s especially well-known for “A Game of Thrones,” the first novel in his best-selling epic series “A Song of Ice and Fire” about noble families battling to claim the Iron Throne and rule the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. “Thrones” was turned into an HBO series that just completed a highly successful first season.

The fifth book in the series.

And Martin’s long-awaited fifth novel, “A Dance With Dragons” will be released July 12. The timing couldn’t be better. On July 21 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Comic-Con, he’ll moderate the HBO “Game of Thrones” panel with some of the cast, including Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Jason Momoa and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

Martin, 62, is no stranger to fame. He’s been a panelist at Comic-Con before, and in 1988 he received the convention’s coveted Inkpot Award. He’s worked in Hollywood as a screenwriter on TV shows like “The Twilight Zone” and “Beauty and the Beast.” He’s won Hugo and Nebula awards — the most prestigious for science-fiction and fantasy writers. And he was listed by Time magazine earlier this year as one of the 100  “most influential people in the world.” (Read what Time had to say about him here.) And that was before the HBO version of  “Thrones” turned Martin into something akin to a literary rock star, bringing him a legion of new fans.

Through it all, the New Jersey native has remained a humble guy. He admits to being “fairly apprehensive” about the potential crowds he will face at Comic-Con. In 1996, when “A Game of Thrones” was released, crowds for his book signings were small. He recalls pulling into the parking lot of a bookstore in Denton, Texas, for a signing. There was no place to park. “I thought, this is gonna be a huge signing,” Martin says. “But there were two signings that day. I was in the front of the store, where about a dozen people showed up. And in the back, there was an event for Clifford (The Big Red Dog) and hundreds showed up for that.”

But as the popularity of his books increased, so did his crowds, and now he’s used to getting a couple of hundred fans at events. But thousands? The idea is flattering, but it’s still a bit mind-boggling. “How many people do those ballrooms (at Comic-Con) hold?” he asks.

His fave Comic-Con moment: “I’ve been a comic fan since the 1960s. I haven’t been every year, but I’ve been to six or seven and was there for the first one back in the 1980s. I like the old Comic-Cons in the 1980s, when it was much smaller and it was more intimate. I could eye the old comic books in cardboard boxes. I’m a Marvel guy mostly.It’s obviously a whole different animal now. They still call it Comic-Con, but it’s more of a multi-media extravaganza. TV, film and games — all of these things have huge roles now.”

Emilia Clarke plays Daenerys Targaryen, the exiled princess in the HBO series. > Photo by Helen Sloan

What’s a can’t miss for him? “Walking the floor. If crowds start gathering, I’m not sure what I will do! I’ve never had security before and I won’t this time, but I will have people from HBO with me.”

On the HBO series: “It’s quite a faithful adaptation of the books. The deal calls for me to write one episode per season. (He wrote episode No. 8 — “The Pointy End” — in season one.) I can’t be there day in and day out because I have other writing to do. But (HBO) does call me to consult about the characters, weigh in on the casting and what will happen with the characters later in the (book) series.”

On the HBO actors: “Yes, they come pretty close to how I pictured them, especially Peter Dinklage. Years ago, David and Dan (HBO producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss) met with me for lunch at the Palm Restaurant in L.A. We talked so long that we ran into dinner time. But we talked how we would approach the series and at a certain point we talked about casting and who we would put in our dream cast. For the role of Tyrion, it had to be Dinklage. There were no auditions or readings for that role. We never considered anyone else for it.”

On why he kills off popular characters, especially Ned Stark: “This is like déjà vu because in 1996 (when “A Game of Thrones” came out) book readers asked me the same thing. So now it’s happening again (with the HBO crowd). I will kill them. It increases the tension. It keeps people on edge because they wonder who will get out of it? I also think it’s a little more realistic. The TV hero might escape from the dungeon easily but in real life, most people didn’t escape from the dungeon. They either stayed in the dungeon for a very long time or died there.”

Isaac Hempstead-Wright plays young Bran Stark and Kit Harington plays Jon Snow. > Photo by Helen Sloan

Are you still planning seven books? “Yes. Seven kingdoms, seven gods, seven books. Seven seems fitting, but until I get out of book six, I’m not sure. I won’t have a chance to start working on book six until next year.” (And yes, Martin has always known how the series will end and who among his major characters would live or die.)

On meeting his fans: Meeting fans is always great, but their reaction has changed in the last few years. This is really hard to explain but in the 1980s, fans would come up to me and say ‘Oh Martin, I like your stuff. Will you sign my book? I really like your novel.’ But now I get these Hollywood reactions where people squeal and are tongue-tied — like they can’t speak to me anymore. I think of myself as the same guy I was 20 years ago though.”

On success:
“It’s great and it means a lot. You want readers as an author, and not just for the financial reasons. But it’s nice to know you’ve struck a chord with such a large readership and know you’ve created a story that will perhaps outlive you.”

Author George R.R. Martin says the HBO series is "quite a faithful adaptation of the books. The deal calls for me to write one episode per season." > Photo by Nick Briggs


1. La Deetda Reads - July 8, 2011

Wonderful interview, Diana! I am intriqued that Martin writes one episode per season of the HBO rendition. I will go back and re-watch the “Pointy” episode.
(If only Charlaine Harris had written a few episodes of TrueBlood…sigh)

2. maria rose - July 8, 2011

i have yet to have read any of his books but have been following comments about his works because i like authors who have significant theme in their books (yours included). I have been now persuaded to get the books. Also i like the fact he writes a script for at least one TV episode to create a link between film and books

Diana McCabe - July 8, 2011

And yes — the books are very good. He’s a great world builder. Uhhhhh — a bit dark but you saw his comments on realism!


3. Diana McCabe - July 8, 2011

I think he would love to write more but he’s so busy!!


4. Lisa - July 12, 2011

I really want to read these books, but they will have to wait as I have HUGE TBR piles, and don’t need to be buying more books at present. But, they are on my list..

Diana McCabe - July 12, 2011

U can prolly at least read first one ….. get it from library? HBO series is good and pretty much faithful to the books.


5. a game of thrones casting - April 1, 2012

Very good information. Saved to boomarks!

Diana McCabe - April 1, 2012

Thanks! And now for TV fans — Season No. 2 starts on HBO tonite. (For those of us who are fans of the books — the HBO series is a treat, too!)

Thanks for visiting the site!


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