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George R.R. Martin

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George R.R. Martin on Cheeseburgers, the Thrones Writers’ Room, and Ending Delivery-Date Predictions

Although some might gripe about George R.R. Martin being in New York this week rather than at his home in Sante Fe, writing like the wind, we were more than happy to have the chance to run into him at Tuesday’s Game of Thrones season-four premiere screening at Lincoln Center. The author of the "A Song of Ice and Fire" book series, which forms the basis of the HBO show, also took a few minutes to answer our spur-of-the-moment questions in this spoiler-free chat. Read on to hear his thoughts about the Game of Thrones writers’ room, knighting fans who bring him food, and, of course, when he might deliver that next book.

Will you be sending anyone on a quest at this party, like you have at conventions?
No. [Laughs.] I’ve given up knighting people, I’m afraid. Reno broke me of that tradition. When it began, it was like ten people. And it got to be so popular, that at the Reno Worldcon, I’d send people out for a cheeseburger at two in the morning, and they kept coming back, and coming back, and I was like knighting 100 people! There were cheeseburgers all over the hotel room, you know? I ate, like, two of them, and then the people who were already “knights” and “lords” ate two of them, and yet, here are more and more people coming with cheeseburgers! There were cheeseburgers on all the tables and cheeseburgers on the chairs — we were drowning in them! So I said, “Nah, I’ve got to end this tradition here.”

Some characters on the show are not like how they are in the books, or show up earlier or later than in the novels. How much do they consult you when they want to change key characters or tweak story lines?
Yeah, we do that all the time. But David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] are the showrunners, and they consult me when they want to, and I offer advice, and sometimes they take it, sometimes they don’t, you know? It’s a typical writers’ room in television. We have a lot of arguments and discussions about the best way to handle something.

Do you ever tell them, “You may not want to cut that. You’re going to need that later … ”
I’ve said that sometimes, and sometimes they cut it anyway. [Laughs.] And sometimes they don’t! It’s part of the process. I mean, some character scenes that we’ve lost along the way, I would have liked to have seen. If you’ve watched the first season DVDs, there are the auditions scenes from both Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner, one is about Rhaegar’s rubies, at the ruby ford. And they were both great in that, as auditions. I was shocked when the scene wasn’t actually in the show, because it was a beautiful scene between the two girls. It established their character, and also established a little bit of history about Rhaegar. But that came out, which happens, you know? There are only so many hours. The show is an hour. It’s HBO, so we don’t have to end in 46 minutes like a network show, but we can go up to like 58, and then, you know, we’ve got to end it.

There are also things that the show can do to help elucidate aspects from the books, such as that moment when Arya overhears two men talking. In the book, we don’t know who it is, because she doesn’t know them, and the chapter is from her point of view. In the show, we do, because we recognize Varys.
Right. Exactly, yes! It’s less mysterious. There are still people who’ve only read the books who are arguing about who those two people were! The people who are watching the show don’t argue about that.

Are there any moments in particular you loved seeing realized on the show like that, in a way perhaps you hadn’t originally imagined?
The Red Wedding. I don’t know if I could call that a favorite moment, but that was a big moment. Ned’s execution. The Battle of Blackwater — the entire episode was amazing. Incredible work there. In the first season, we had trouble doing battles, with the time commitment and the budget, but they really made up for that with the Blackwater.

How far along are you in writing the next book, The Winds of Winter?
Ideally, I should have finished it two years ago, but I haven’t. One page at a time. I’ve given up making predictions about these things. I’ll be done when it’s done.  

But David and Dan know what’s coming, in case they catch up to you, right?
They do, they do. They know what’s coming. They’ve even seen part of it, certain chapters that are finished.

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/2014 Getty Images