George R.R. Martin, the author of the books most people know better as HBO’s Game of Thrones, came to Charlotte this past weekend. He was the guest of honor at ConCarolinas. I’m a big nerd fan of the books so I decided to go and listen to Martin speak. Didn’t expect to get this close:

The view from my seat

My view at the opening program

Martin was sweetly worried that his hat was blocking my view (it wasn’t). We chatted for a moment, which was fun. You can see more of my Con pics here.

I’ve written up the Q&A that Martin did with fans.  There are spoilers; I’m not even sure everything will make sense if you haven’t read the books. Looking for more info? I recommend westeros.org.

I did not take notes on every question. Many simply consisted of, “I love your work,” or “It’s really exciting to talk to you.”  I use quotes only when I wrote down Martin’s response word for word. Everything else is paraphrased. The italics are my comments. Ok? Here we go!

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Q:  What about Elia & Oberyn Martell’s mother?  Will we know her name or hear more about her?

A: Maybe. She’s dead. There are a lot of other people to get to.

Martin talks for a bit here about how little changes made on the HBO show will have a big impact on the story there later. Made sure to let us know that he doesn’t control the choices the TV producers make. This seemed less about the Martells and more about getting that statement out early in the Q&A.

Q: Will you ever write a book about Robert’s Rebellion?

A: “Probably not.” There are going to be many more flashbacks and allusions to Robert’s Rebellion in the next two books. “By the end of this series you’ll know everything that happened” in the Rebellion.  A book about it then would not be very interesting.

Q: What can you tell us about a warg dragon rider?

A: There is no history/precedent for someone warging a dragon. There is a rich history of the mythical bond between dragon and rider.  There have been instances of dragons responding to their riders even from very far away (hmm) which shows it is a true and very strong bond. We will learn more about this. Keep reading (we hear “keep writing” from the back of the room).

This question was initially misheard as “a dwarf dragon rider,” which is just as interesting. I was hoping someone would press him to follow up on that, but they let it pass. Honestly, I’m not sure the moderator/host had even read one of Martin’s books. He seemed to be more interested in Buffy than in Bloodraven.

Q: How do you keep track of all your characters?

A: My brain! (laughter) I keep notes and I remember everything in my mind. But now I have no room in my brain for other things, like remembering who the f— you people are (more laughter). I’ve met many of you and already forgotten your names! Martin mentions of course he has computer files, other helpers (I didn’t write down if he specifically mentioned Elio & Linda at Westeros.org). As is widely known, I had a horse that that changed gender from book one to book two. Renly’s eyes were green then blue, so I just made them blue-green. Apparently, eye color is the worst. “I don’t even know why I include eye color! I can’t tell what color eyes people in the front row here have! I can just tell they have eyes!”

Q: Asks about a recent interview with Martin’s editor in which she said he submitted pages last year for The Winds of Winter.  “How many pages have you finished that you haven’t submitted?” (A few groans from the crowd)

A: “Some” (laughter)

Q: Very well-asked question about controversial rape depictions in the show and books. Questioner brings up the Jamie/Cersei rape scene on TV, then leads into question about Tyrion and Tysha’s last encounter. Was that scene written as a horrific rape? Questioner claims many of her friends do not see it that way.

This was interesting. Crowd seems very uncomfortable as this question is asked. It’s almost as though she’s stepping over a line many think should not be crossed. Martin’s answer is excellent and very long. He takes at least 15 minutes.

A: That scene is filtered through Tyrion’s point of view ten years after the fact. We don’t know anything about what Tysha is thinking, although it’s meant to be a brutal scene for everyone, Tywin included. No one enjoyed that incident.  We could only find out what Tysha was thinking or feeling if we see her again. We may.  Remember, and I’ve talked about this quite a bit lately, the concept of rape has changed over the years (i.e. there was once no concept of marital rape).

Much of the rest of what Martin said about rape in history and war has been covered very well elsewhere. I’m not going to do it justice here. He did mention he wrote a three page response to the New York Times, which they edited down, of course. You can read that article here. 

A (Martin continues): “I hate that word gratuitous” about the books, whether it refers to sex or violence or food. “What that really means is, that didn’t interest me so I skipped that part.”  I want “total immersion” for readers.  For example, I read the Victarion preview chapter at last night’s banquet and when I write about the sound of drums to help the rowers keep time, I want you to feel it. “Boom BOOM Boom Boom” (he hits his hand on the table for emphasis). If I mention a howl, I want you to hear it. OOOOWWWWOOOOO (it was quite a nice howl).

Q:  What is your favorite line in ASOIAF?

A: I can’t single out one line but my favorite passage is Septon Meribald’s speech about war in… what was it?  (crowd yells out Feast for Crows).

How did he forget which book? Martin has said he sees this as one long novel. He also tells us later that he sometimes writes chapters that end up in different books than originally intended.

Q: Who do you see yourself as in the books? Which character has the most of you in him?

A: I’d like to say Tyrion, but it’s really Samwell Tarly. Tyrion gets more action, he gets laid more (laughter) but I’m really more like Sam.

Q: What real history books would you recommend?

A: Apologies, I was next in line and didn’t write down the answer. Please enjoy this other article that seems to list quite a few of Martin’s favorite fiction and nonfiction authors 

Q: My turn! My question is about the Mercy chapter released just before the start of Season 4. As a book-reader, it was so satisflying to read that before watching the similar situation play out on the show (Arya refers back to Lommy while killing Polliver on the show, Raff in the books). As you’ve mentioned, you can’t control the show content. Are there any plans to release more chapters to stay ahead of reveals like that as we head toward season 5? Also, Arya seems much older than we might expect in that chapter. Does “Mercy” happen more than a year in the future from the end of Dance or is it just that Arya always seems older than her age?

A: Big pause from Martin.  That chapter was written about ten years ago and was first supposed to be at the end of Feast, then included at the end of Dance. But it seems to be a beginning more than an end, so it got moved around quite a bit. It was also part of the five year gap that was supposed to happen in the books so the children could grow up a bit. This worked well for characters like Arya and Bran, but not at all for Jon Snow or others. “Well, I became Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch five years ago. Not much has happened since…” (laughter). I worked that chapter quite a bit to bring Arya back to her current age. There is no time gap there (he doesn’t say exactly when it comes in the story sequence).  Remember, this is a preview chapter, I may still go back and rework it before it’s published.

I’m sure I’m projecting since this is my question, but Martin seems a bit put out that Arya’s age seems to be an issue here. Sort of, “I’m not rewriting that damn chapter again.” No real comment on whether he would release more preview chapters before season 5 and another reminder that he doesn’t control what goes into the show.

Q: Do you have any advice for writers?

A:  Keep reading (from the back – again – keep writing!). Remember to write for the right reasons.  I’m up here on the dais and you’re all down there in the audience and some people really just want to be up here. If you want to write to get attention, please realize it doesn’t work that way. You should write if you have a story in our head you can’t shake. You should write if the stories or the characters wake you up at night or follow you around during the day. If you have something to say, be a writer. Not for the celebrity of it. That doesn’t usually work out.

Q: Question about the Silent Sisters and allowance of noisy bodily functions.

A: Um, I don’t think that’s an issue.

Q: I hate the show, they’ve “crapped all over “ Jaime.

A: Oh well. I don’t think they’ve ruined anyone. It’s different.

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There were a few questions I missed. A very young girl, maybe 8 years old, was first in line and I was distracted by the fact her parents let her watch or read this series! The moderator did ask GRRM if he had a Targaryan coloring book for her. He didn’t, but the crowd seemed really interested in that (connect the dots of Summerhall)!

At another session, Martin read from The World of Ice and Fire (due out later this year). You can find an excellent recap at History of Westeros. I found it interesting, but my “I’m here for Star Wars” friend fell asleep. Really.

Whew! Bit of a different post for me, but I loved working on it.  My husband is just happy I found other people just as crazy interested in these books as I am.