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George R.R. Martin.

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George R.R. Martin Will Sit out Season 5 of Game of Thrones to Finish Up His Next Book

George R.R. Martin dropped some big news on Vulture when we ran into him at the Bates Motel party at Comic-Con last night: He will essentially be sitting out the upcoming season of Game of Thrones to finish up The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in his best-selling “A Song of Ice and Fire” saga. So far through the show’s four seasons, Martin has contributed one script per season, but No. 5 won’t be happening this time around; he also told us he’ll be less involved in the production this season in general. Priorities! Here’s our three-minute chat with GRRM about his decision and a few other Thrones-related topics. [Warning: This interview contains spoilers for the book series and the show, as well as potential clues about upcoming plotlines.]

Which shooting location are you going to choose to visit this season? Seems like a tough one since you’ve added another warm, exotic locale to the list, with Spain subbing in for Dorne.
I don’t know. I might make it over there early next year, but I’ve got to finish the book The Winds of Winter. So I’m making the trips I’m already obligated to make, but I’m not adding any new trips at this time. So I don’t think I’m going to do a set visit this year, sadly.

Are you still going to write an episode?
Not this year, no — once again because I have this book to finish.

Bummer, but I say take as much time as you want!
Well, thank you, don’t say that in public — they'll rip the arms off you. [Laughs.]

What do you think of the new cast members announced today and how early do you find out that information?
You know, it varies season to season. This season, most of those cast members are new to me as well because I haven’t been involved in the process. I’ve been doing a lot of other stuff. In the earlier seasons I was much more involved with casting. I would review tapes and comment, but that’s a time-consuming process. And at this point, we’re five seasons in, we have the best casting director in the business in Nina Gold, David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] have been running the show, and it’s a well-oiled machine, so it really doesn’t need me down there with the oil can squeaking at the wheels. [Laughs.]

I asked Mr. Weiss and Mr. Benioff not too long ago if you or they have ever considered writing a “Game of Thrones heaven” spinoff involving the dead characters, and they liked the idea. And then newly announced Star Wars director Rian Johnson tweeted to say, “I’m spearheading the ‘GoT Heaven’ movie.” Have you ever thought about what your dead characters might be doing in heaven?
I don’t know about heaven, but we do have seven hells, so that would be a lot to work with. There are some pretty nasty people down there.

I heard you say on the panel that you think your reputation for killing characters is too harsh?
No, I was just joking. David and Dan are worse than I am because there are more characters every episode who are still alive in the books who are dead in the TV show.

Are you in favor of exploring flashbacks this season? My favorite subplot is the romantic tragedy of the Tournament of Harrenhal and I hope someday I’ll get the full story.
You know, flashbacks are a tricky device to use. I’m certainly in favor of exploring the backstory and the history, [but] I’m not sure that flashbacks are the best way to do them. But maybe. We have a pseudo-flashback device built in. You’ve read the books?

Yes.
Then you know that Bran is merging with the Weirwood and time and space is bending to his will, and he can see things from past epochs. That may the device rather than a conventional flashback — but again, that’s really something David and Dan have to wrestle with. My stress is still the books.

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/2014 Getty Images