Famous Writers: A Quick Interview With George R. R. Martin
|Ah, the joys of
living in the Bay Area. Here I am giving what I hope will be the first of a long line of
interviews with some of my favorite authors. I have met and spoken with, but not recorded
such luminaries as Tim Powers, Neil Gaiman, Gahan Wilson, Dan Simmons, Barbara
Hambly, Nancy Collins, and others. Thank Great Cthulhu for Dark Carnival Bookstore! Now
Im going to try to get small interviews with these people, simply because I now have
an appropriate tape recorder, and the nerve to use it. George R. R. Martin is the
astounding award-winning author of A Game of Thrones, Fevre Dream,
editor of all fifteen Wild Cards books, a writer for television's Beauty and
the Beast, Twilight Zone, and a member of the Endimyon Krewe at Mardi Gras.
His books have a beautiful, flowing sense of character, and his plots are never ordinary.
It's enviable, inspiring work, and his latest, A Clash of Kings,
is every bit as wonderful and rich as A Game of Thrones. I was lucky enough to
catch him signing books at Dark Carnival on Friday, 2/26/1999, and he was kindly obliging
to this aspiring writer...
John: What inspired the Starks? The Stark family in A Game of Thrones was just marvelous
George R. R. Martin: Well, that's a difficult question to answer. I think, partially, I wanted to do a book about a family. Ive written a lot of novels and I realize that for the most part, the heroes of those novels, the protagonists, are always loners. They're young people who are unattached, or they are older people who have never made attachments. Abner Marsh from Fever Dream, is a loner, Dirk Tellarian, in Dying of the Light, is a loner. So I thought it would be interesting to tackle a family unit for once. Also, there's a lot of inspiration in Clash of Kings from history and I read a lot of historical fiction and a lot of history when doing it and was struck by the great family units of the middle ages; power was a familial thing then. That dynamic seemed interesting to me and worth exploring.
John: Why do you write, as opposed to being a shoe salesman?
GM: Well, there's no money in shoes. Ive always written. It's a disease: I made up stories when I was a kid, I made up little stories and sold them to the other kids in the neighborhood for a nickel, and gave a dramatic reading along with the story. I've always made up stories; it's what I do; it's part of me. I think even of there was no way to publish or to make money from it, I'd still make up stories in my head
John: Who is your favorite writer?
GM: (immediately) Jack Vance. Definitely. He's incredible. He just goes on and on. So many writers of his duration hit a wall at some point in their career. They stop writing, or they continue writing, but their books turn to crap. But Vance is just as good now; Nightlamp was just as good as Big Planet. He keeps hitting these home runs as far as I'm concerned, and I can't stop reading him. I pick up a new book by him and I read one sentence and I'm hooked; he's got me in. He's terrific. I like a lot of other writers, too but Vance is definitely my single favorite.
John: Do you think you write like him?
GM: I don't think I write like him. I've learned a few things from Jack Vance, definitely, and occasionally I deliberately try to write like Jack Vance. The Havilan Tuff character, that I did a book about, is very much a Vancian character. Particularly the first story that I wrote about Tuff, "A Beast for Norn,' I was deliberately trying to see if I could do a kind of Vance-type thing like he did with Magnus Ridolf and some of his characters. But his style is very different than mine. It's a very rich style. Give it a try. He won't be like me, he'll be distinctly different, but he's got a great body of work, and if you like it, there'll be forty more you could read, which is the joy of a writer with that much [material].
John: You've written for TV. You've written a lot for TV. What's your favorite medium?
GM: Books. That's easy.
John: Any particular reason? Just because no one else is messing with your work?
GM: Yeah, that's the big reason. It's very exciting to work for television, but you get tired, after a while, of constantly having to please everybody. Of hearing what the director's ideas are, and the actors' viewpoint, and the network has a note they would like accommodated; you just get sick of that. You just want to tell a story and communicate it to your audience. I'm glad I did my TV work. It was an enjoyable period of time, and the wheelbarrows full of money they also paid me were also good, but ultimately, books are my first love and my last love, and my true love.
John: Did you create Beauty and the Beast?
GM: No. Ron Koslow created Beauty and the Beast.
John: And you wrote for that.
GM: He hired me as one of his staff, yes. And I wrote 13 episodes of 56.
John: What grabbed you about the series?
GM: It was just so beautifully done. I looked at he pilot, Koslow had filmed the pilot already, and he sent it to me, and it was a quality series. If you work in television, you want to work for Hill Street Blues, not Three's Company. And you want to be associated with the highest quality of material, and I could tell looking at this that it looked beautiful, it was well directed, it was well written, the actors were superb, and I said this is the kind of show I want to do. And there was the fantasy element, of course. Koslow was also very generous. He had had the initial vision, but there was still a lot of room to create; for the other writers to add things to that vision, and not not just be executing his vision but to make their own contribution. And I appreciated that.
John: Did you have a favorite episode?
GM: I think my favorite episode was "Brothers," which was the episode with the Dragon-Men.
John: Thank you very much.