Sci-Fi Royalty George R. R. Martin Visits San FranciscoAug 6th, 2011 | By Clout and About | Category: Author Events
I didn’t quite know what to expect from George R. R. Martin. I took a late liking to his novels brought about by the popular HBO series. Anyone who knows me will attest that my time is gold. With all the events to cover and writing projects to finish, looking at his 5,000 page volume is daunting, let alone reading it. But unlike many other books’ translations to films and television which have gone awry this one is the opposite for me. Last week, Alex Telander of Bookbanter.com and I had the priceless opportunity to speak with Mr. Martin as the town of Redwood City rolled out the red carpet for him.
Knowing that he had an unbelievable turnout at the recently concluded Comic Con, I planned on being at the venue 4 hours early, and what I saw as I got to the Fox Theater was evidence of the immense cult following for the author and his writing. A line of eager fans with stacks of books in hand and ready for signing were already out the door and stretched around the theatre that afternoon.
As I entered to get my equipment set up, I couldn’t help but admire the old-world fanciful feel of the venue. It was intimately grand and the staff was excited, eager and helpful the minute I stepped in. The Kepler’s Books team was also (as always) in full force working together to make sure this event would be as smooth sailing as possible. I heard twelve hundred people were expected that night and I had no doubt in my mind they would be able to manage such a volume.
An Interview To Remember
I use “remember” literally here. Perhaps the stars were crossed for me that evening, as my recording of the interview somehow turned out to be inaudible. Thank goodness then that Mr. Martin was such a truly mesmerizing person, very easy to speak with, casually and straightforwardly discussing all our queries. I am not a hardcore sci-fi freak so I let Alex take care of that part. I wanted to get to know the other persona of Mr. Martin – one that did not involve so much of his novel and boy was I in a for a real treat.
Clout&About: What do you feel is your strength and weakness as a writer?
George RR Martin: Character and plot development are definitely my strengths as a writer. I have no problem creating characters who grow on my readers’ psyche and emotions. My greatest weakness however is that I take my time writing. I don’t know if you are aware, but it took me 6 years to come up with the follow up novel and I was given a lot of criticism for that. Some people even thought I was being sinister about it believing that the novel was already done and I was just continually torturing them by delaying its release as if I wanted to prolong the agony of waiting. But I really can’t write as fast as I would like to. I have other writer friends who can go from one topic in the morning to a totally different one in the afternoon. I can’t do that.
CA: More than 7,000 fans showed up for you at the recently concluded comic con. Did you ever envision yourself looking out on a sea of adoring fans as you did recently?
GRRM: It’s been pretty incredible. Anyone who’s been to San Diego Comic Con will know it’s a madhouse – there’s nothing like it. 150,000 people under one roof in one day – it’s pretty frightening but such a powerful pool. There were so many people in line during my presentation that 3-4 hours went by and I still wasn’t able to see all of them. So it was pretty surreal when my turn on stage came and there were about 4200 people screaming, pounding their shoes and making those strange squealing sounds as if I was a member of the Beatles which was pretty startling you know – I mean I can see them reacting that way with the actors from the TV series, but that was me they were actually screaming for in there. But I really enjoyed it and I was able to hang out with people I admire like Nathan Fillion – and it was thrilling to say the least to have Amy Poehler and Seth Myers approach me and say they were fans. I also have to add that earning the 100 Most Influential People list from Time Magazine was really one of the highlights of my career.
CA: I like that you take your time writing your books. But now with the current demands of your work schedule – can you still find time to step back and unwind? What is your idea of relaxation?
GRRM: Sunday is my time to relax because it’s all about the NFL. I’m rooting for the NY Jets and Giants and with any luck it’ll be another year of kicking the Raiders’ ass.
CA: How frequently have you visited San Francisco and what are the things you look forward to doing and eating when you’re here?
GRRM: I do visit San Francisco quite often because of the other Sci-fi conventions that are held here but the House of Hunan in San Francisco is a favorite and must-stop whenever I visit the Bay Area. I have traveled here many times and must have been to that place a dozen times, even when it was just a hole in the wall, and saw how over the years they’ve expanded and grown to what they are now, but the food is consistently good and filling and the flavors always satisfy.
Alex Telander’s Conversation with The Man of Westeros
George R. R. Martin has made the commitment to write at least one episode per season of Game of Thrones, and no more for the simple reason that if he spends too much time writing episodes for the show, the last two books in the series simply won’t get written. And Martin didn’t hold back at his recent signing at the Fox Theatre in Redwood City, hosted by Kepler’s Books, in voicing his greatest fear: that the show’s seasons would catch up with the books. When asked whether he felt the HBO Game of Thrones series had changed him at all as a writer, he replied that other than making him more money, it hadn’t really, what with his previous work in Hollywood as a writer on a number of different projects including the eighties reboot of The Twilight Zone and the Beauty and the Beast TV series.
As anyone who has read his books knows – or perhaps in watching just a few episodes of the show – Martin has some very complicated and complex characters in his Song of Ice and Fire series, as well as a very large cast. When asked how he possibly keeps all these characters organized and separate, he admits to not giving one their own drawer or box, but apart from errant pieces of paper with notes jotted down, he keeps everything – impressively – in his head; though he did admit to the saving tool of the “find and replace” option in his word processing program.
J. K. Rowling made it know relatively early on in the series of Harry Potter that she not only knew the ending, but had the last chapter written and sealed in a protective vault somewhere (perhaps guarded by goblins). Martin admits to knowing what the ending will be, at least for each of the characters, but said that A Song of Ice and Fire is just as much about the journey as it is about the eventual conclusion and end.
On the subject of eBooks, George R. R. Martin had a lot to say: while he is the owner of a Kindle, he isn’t necessarily a proud one, using it when he travels but not fully invested in it as a reading device; he still prefers real books. Yet, he admitted to the undeniable reality of the changing publishing world, which is starting to skew more towards eBooks, as he has seen most poignantly in his royalty checks divided up by format sold: eBooks have gone from a third, minor portion, to equaling audiobook book sales, and now actually competing with the hardcover and paperback sales. The future of publishing and eBooks is something that can’t really be predicted, Martin says, even though he is a science fiction writer, and predicting the future is “what we’re supposed to be good at”; however, he does believe that the formats of books are going to change. He believes that the mass market – the cheapest form of paperback – will become obsolete and no longer be published, while there is the possibility that the hardcover may grow to become even more of a collector’s item, with improved creative covers, possibly illustrated, using more unique and individual publishing styles. I was reminded of Brandon Sanderson’s release last year of the first book in his epic new series, The Way of Kings, which featured many of the facets Martin described.
With the liquidation and eventual closing of Borders – likely sometime in late September – Martin said that it is always a sad thing for any place that sells and promotes books to go out of business, as it becomes one less place people can get the books they want, as well as discover new authors. He said that he had already seen Borders’ effect on a number of midlist authors who will not see the same coverage and availability with the likes of Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, as they did with Borders, as well as a number of small publishers going out of business due to a combination of what was owed to them by Borders, as well as Borders carrying a large number of their titles. Martin does hope, however, that this hole that will open up in the book world when Borders is gone will be filled, and not just with the giants, but also with smaller, more independent bookstores; he says he has in fact heard of some increase in sales already with smaller bookstores from this. Yet, it still remains a very undetermined and hard to predict event in publishing.
For those looking to hear more from George R. R. Martin, and possibly even meet the great author, they will find him attending Worldcon, which he does every year, no matter where it is situated (it takes place in a different location every year). This year it is taking place in Reno, Nevada from August 17-21; more details can be found at the Renovation website (http://www.renovationsf.org/).
A video recap of his San Francisco book event
Alex Telander’s Reviews of George R. R. Martin’s Books